Re: virus: Re: Rationality

Dave Pape (
Sun, 9 Mar 1997 10:31:29 GMT

At 19:17 08/03/97 -0800, Eva wrote:

>I just dug up Douglas Hofstadter's take on the issue, which makes good
>sense to me. Here is an excerpt from the dialogue "Who Shoves Whom Around
>Inside the Careenium?", in _Metamagical Themas_.
>TORTOISE: ....So I'd like to ask you, Achilles, can you freely decide to
>do anything?
>ACHILLES: Of course I can! That's precisely what free will is about! I can
>decide to do whatever I want!
>T: Really? Can you decide, say, to answer me in Sanskrit?
>A: Obviously not. But that has nothing to do with it. I don't speak
>Sanskrit. How could I answer you in it? Your question doesn't
>make sense.
>T: Not so. You can only do what your brain will allow you to do, and that
>is very crucial. Let me ask you another question. Can you decide to kill
>me right now?
>A: Mr. T! What a suggestion! How could you suggest such a thing, even in
>T: Could you nonetheless decide to do it?
>A: Sure! Why not? I can certainly _imagine_ myself deciding to do it.
>T: That is beside the point, Achilles. Don't confuse hypothetical or
>fictitious worlds with reality. I'm asking you if you _can_ decide to kill me.
>A: I guess that in this world, in the _real_ world, I could not _carry
>out_ such a decision, even had I "decided"--or claimed I'd decided--to do
>it. So I guess I _couldn't_ decide to do it, actually.
>T: That's right. That innocent-seeming trailer phrase that one tends to
>tack on--exactly as you did--is very telling, after all.
>A: What innocent phrase? What do you mean?
>T: Don't you remember? You insisted vehemently to me, "I can decide to do
>_whatever I want_." Now that phrase "whatever I want" may _sound_ like a
>grand, universal, all-inclusive, sweeping phrase--but in fact, it
>represents quite the opposite: a severe constraint. It's not true that you
>are able to decide to do _anything_; you are limited to being able to
>decide to do only things you _want_. Worse yet, you are in fact limited to
>doing, at any time, the _one_ thing that you _most_ want to do! Here,
>"want" is a complex function of the state of the entire system.
>A: Are you saying that choice is an illusion?
>T: Only to the extent that "I" is an illusion. Let me explain....
>I recommend reading the entire dialogue, indeed, the entire book.

Top! I've got my dad's copy of "G.E.B." to read... would you say Metamagical
Themas is worth reading first? I certainly agree with the above, it's a nice
don't-have-to-mention-memes anti-freewill argument that I never put into
words that neatly. Hope you got lots of nice gifts on your birthday.

Dave Pape
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-(Southport & Formby Round Table Association slogan, 1994-1995)

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