The Phoenix Nest

Nisqually, Washington, on the Grand Fossil Tour

Nisqually, Washington, on the Grand Fossil Tour

With a Story about People Making Things Happen

By Jim Fulton

 

About This Page

A Message from the Phoenix

This is a Keepable Popup
Abstract

For almost two decades, I passed through the little town of Nisqually on my way between my home near Olympia and Seattle. Always I saw the sign for the Riverbend Campground. So when I needed a place to move into my trailer while I sold my house and its contents, Riverbend came immediately to mind. It was a good choice, spacious, comfortable, and close to where I needed to be.

Page Prerequisites
Table of Contents
Page Specifications
Id Flights_GFT_2017_0601
Title Nisqually, Washington, on the Grand Fossil Tour
Subtitle With a Story about People Making Things Happen
Keywords Nisqually, Riverbend Campground, Actions, Making things happen
Author Jim Fulton
Author's URL http://fenixnest/Phoenix/
Copyright 2017
Status Published: 2017/9/09
Last Revised 2018-05-06

Monroe, Washington

Arrived 2017/6/1
Click "More options" to view full-size version.
Nights Stayed 29
Departed 2017/6/30
Map miles from last stop 8
Mileage on arrival 16,905
Actual miles from last stop 8
Accumulated miles for trip 8

In June of 2017 I sold my house near Olympia, and moved into a travel trailer that I lived in at the Riverbend Campground near Nisqually, Washington.

Nisqually is only a short, familiar trip from my house in Olympia. I passed through the town almost every time I drove north. That proximity was just what I needed, since I was going to be commuting back and forth as I got the house ready to transfer to the new owner.

During my month there I engaged in the laborious process of moving the stuff I needed, shedding what I didn't, and began the learning curve of living in small quarters.

What is somewhat wierd is that I quickly became at home in the trailer, despite having to reconstruct the habits of my life, and I didn't miss the old house that I had lived in for almost 19 years (more than any other house in my life), nor the many items familiar to that life that I handed over to others. I guess I was subconsciously ready for the transition.

The Town of Nisqually

Nisqually is a small town in northern Thurston County, Washington, just south of the Pierce County line. I've driven through it hundreds of times, since that road is the shortest, prettiest of all the routes between my home in Olympia, and any destination to the north.

Nisqually lies on the southern bank of the Nisqually River, which flows from the Nisqually Glacier on the southern flanks of Mt. Rainier. Given what happened in 1980 to the towns downstream of the rivers that flowed from erupting Mt. St. Helens, I've long thought that a similar fate will befall Nisqually when Rainier blows its top.

There's not much to Nisqually economically: a convenience store, a quarry, another business or so, plus a couple of RV parks that cater to the fishermen that swarm to the Nisqually River. That turned out to be convenient for me, since it provided a place to park my travel trailer while I disposed of my house and contents.

Riverbend Campground near Nisqually

Riverbend Campground
Address 1040 Clubhouse Ln SE
Olympia, WA 98513
Home Page http://www.riverbendcampgroundwa.com/
Phone 360-491-2534
Associations
Rate
(with discounts & taxes)
$30
Pros
  • Spacious
  • Comfortable
  • Friendly
  • Well forested
  • River access
  • Mail boxes included
  • Good internet via my
Cons
  • Too many nearly invisible and very sharp speed bumps
  • Too many porta-potties instead of shower/toilet buildings.
  • Only a limited number of full-hookup sites, many of which are taken by long-term residents.
  • (?) When Mt. Rainier erupts, it's goodbye.
Phoenix Ratings of Features
Site Type back-in  
Site Size 7 10
Ease of Access 4
(Horseshoe pit in front of site)
10
WiFiNotes 8 10
Campground Reviews (as of 2017/9/2)
Reviewer Rating Out of
RV Park Reviews 4.7 - Average 10
Good Sam 7.5 10
Tripadvisor 3.5 5
Yelp 2.5 5
Phoenix 7.5 10

Riverbend Campground is a spacious, comfortable campground sprawling along the Nisqually River just east of the town of Nisqually. It caters largely to people who fish for salmon coming up the river. I stayed there in June of 2017 while I was moving out of my home in Olympia. The camping sites are generally roomy (though there was a horseshoe pit in front of mine that made backing my 5th-wheel into the site challenging), the roads are wide, and the staff is friendly and helpful. I would definitely return if my travels took me back to the Olympia area, and consider it a candidate as a place to set up permanent residence when I return to Washington.

Photos of Riverbend Campground
Phoenix Nest and Moby Richard at Riverbend
Phoenix Nest and Moby Richard at Riverbend
Phoenix Nest and Moby Richard at Riverbend
Phoenix Nest and Moby Richard at Riverbend
Phoenix Nest and Moby Richard at Riverbend
Phoenix Nest and Moby Richard at Riverbend
Tent Site on Nisqually River at Riverbend
Tent Site on Nisqually River at Riverbend
Tent Camper at Riverbend
Tent Camper at Riverbend
Nisqually River at Riverbend
Nisqually River at Riverbend
Nisqually River at Riverbend
Nisqually River at Riverbend
Play Area at Riverbend
Play Area at Riverbend
Tent Sites at Riverbend
Tent Sites at Riverbend
Permanent Resident at Riverbend
Permanent Resident at Riverbend
Permanent Resident at Riverbend
Permanent Resident at Riverbend
A Restful Seat at Riverbend
A Restful Seat at Riverbend
Campers at Riverbend
Campers at Riverbend
Camping Sites at Riverbend
Camping Sites at Riverbend
Campers at Riverbend
Campers at Riverbend
Campers at Riverbend
Campers at Riverbend
Mail Boxes at Riverbend
Mail Boxes at Riverbend
The Main Gate at Riverbend
The Main Gate at Riverbend
Vehicle Security at Riverbend
Vehicle Security at Riverbend
Office at Riverbend
Office at Riverbend
Welcome to Riverbend
Welcome to Riverbend
Welcome to Riverbend
Welcome to Riverbend
Staff Cabins at Riverbend
Staff Cabins at Riverbend
Camping Group at Riverbend
Camping Group at Riverbend
Camper in Solitude at Riverbend
Camper in Solitude at Riverbend
Campers at Riverbend
Campers at Riverbend
*%^()^ Invisible Speed Bump at Riverbend
*%^()^ Invisible Speed Bump at Riverbend
Camping Group at Riverbend
Camping Group at Riverbend
Preparing for July 4 at Riverbend
Preparing for July 4 at Riverbend
Permanent Resident at Riverbend
Permanent Resident at Riverbend
Permanent Resident at Riverbend
Permanent Resident at Riverbend
Tent Camping Area at Riverbend
Tent Camping Area at Riverbend
Little House at Riverbend
Little House at Riverbend
Little House at Riverbend
Little House at Riverbend
Returning to Phoenix Nest and Moby Richard at Riverbend
Returning Phoenix Nest and Moby Richard at Riverbend
Showerhouse at Riverbend
Showerhouse at Riverbend

Story Time.

In the last episode of our story, we talked of a cat chasing an eluding rabbit. I spent some time asking whether the cat saw the rabbit as a thing, separate from the other things in its environment, whether the cat intended to catch the rabbit, and so on. You might well have wondered about the point of that discussion. It's time to come clean. Those questions were not merely innocent speculation. I asked them to set the stage for an important philosophical point. Let me introduce that point with another story.

A Story of Action and Responsibility: Could He Have Done Otherwise?

Let me start the story by asking whom you were last angry at. Unless you are a perfect saint, or live all by yourself, like Clementine, in a cavern, in a canyon, excavated for a mine, there must be someone whose actions have caused your ire, your resentment. Maybe it's someone distant: the President, the Congress, some terrorist who hurt a bunch of people. (As I write this in August of 2017, the news and social media are full of reactions to the latest incident, a man who drove his car into people counter-protesting a white supremacy protest.) Maybe it's something closer, an unfair, unreasonable action by your employer; a betrayal by a loved one; an annoying neighbor. It seems that most of us are regularly confronted with others doing things they, to our way of thinking, should not have done, things that stir up all kinds of negative emotions. We get angry; we get resentful. Now I want you to think about such a situation in your own life. Who recently did you wrong? What did they do? How do you feel about it? What do you think should be done about that person?

It would not be unusual for you to think they should be punished. At the very least they should apologize, they should take responsibility, they should atone for their behavior, they should make restitution, they should commit not to do it again. Justice might not be the same as vengeance, but surely it is its descendant. It is the modern counterpart of fighting to protect one's territory. Except that now, after generations of feuds and excessive revenge by the strong and ineffective spluttering of the weak, we have established an institutionalized system of justice, in which (in theory) we all collectively, acting through our courts, take on the task of assessing the wrongness of actions, according to well-established rules, and imposing punishment or restitution, whether it be to redress an inequity or because wrong-doers deserve to be punished. In whatever its form, responsibility means that people should not get away with doing wrong. And I suspect that in your particular case, you don't want the person who angered you to get away with what they did.

But is that demand for justice and responsibility reasonable? It has long been wondered whether we can legitimately hold anyone responsible for their actions. This is the traditional problem of free will. This problem arises out of two observations:

First, we don't generally ascribe responsibility to those who are in some way incapable of doing what they should have done, either because they are ignorant of the nature or consequences or their actions, or are physically impaired in ways that prevent them from acting on that knowledge. Thus children and madmen are commonly excused from full criminal responsibility, that is, from the kind of punishments we would impose on "normal" adults, though we may "teach" the former and constrain the latter in ways that look a lot like adult punishment.

Second, we all tend to subscribe to some form of the proposition that things happen for a reason. Maybe you believe that the course of the world has been set by God or the gods or the fates. ("The All-Father wove the skein of your life a long time ago. Go and hide in a hole if you wish, but you won't live one instant longer. Your fate is fixed. Fear profits a man nothing.", Herger the Joyous, The 13th Warrior, Touchstone Pictures, 1999.) Maybe you believe that the natural world causes us to behave in certain ways. Maybe you believe that among those causes are our thoughts and memories and emotions and personalities. Whatever the reasons are, gods, atoms, molecules, neurons, thoughts, whatever, given their presence, given that they explain what happens, what we do, how could we have done otherwise? And if we could not have done otherwise, are we no less incapable of acting differently than we do than a child or madman? The person you are angry at was not, in their circumstances, able to act other than the way they did. So why are you still angry? Get over it. Oh, I see, you are yourself incapable of acting right now other than angrily.

Now maybe you want to respond by saying that the person you are angry at could have done otherwise, not just logically but actually in their circumstances. They weren't forced to do it, not by God or the Fates or by electrons or neutrons or neurons or beliefs or desires. Those things mattered, but didn't strictly determine their action. They had enough freedom to choose otherwise. But what does that mean? That in those circumstances, they did A but could have done B? All right, then why is it that they did A rather than B? If you can give a reason, then that becomes part of the circumstances that explain their action. If you can't, then it seems like their doing A rather than B, cannot be explained. It is a matter of chance. And surely we don't want to hold someone responsible, to punish them for a matter of chance!

Now this is an extremely abbreviated version of the problem of free will. The literature on the topic is gargantuan. I offer this simplified version in order to distill out what might be termed the classical dilemma of free will:

  1. To the extent that our actions are determined by circumstances, we are not responsible for them unless we are responsible for those circumstances. (And we're not responsible for those circumstances, unless we're responsible for the circumstances that led to them, and so on, ad nauseum.
  2. To the extent that our actions are matters of chance, we are not responsible for them.
  3. Since, either our actions are determined by circumstances or are matters of chance, in either case, we are not responsible for them.

In particular, the person you are angry at, whatever they did, acted in a set of circumstances. If those circumstances made them do what they did, they are not responsible. If those circumstances did not force them to do it, then their doing that rather than something else was a matter of chance, and again they were not responsible.

I keep coming back to this hypothetical person you are angry at for a very important reason. The problem of free will is not a mere intellectual exercise. It has real applications to real people performing real actions, people you know. If you don't feel resentment at being told you have no legitimate right to feel resentment, you don't understand that argument.

Now there a number of people who claim that the above argument is unsound, even when it is fleshed out in verbosity and complexity. These people hold that moral responsibility is completely compatible with causal or divine explanations of human behavior. These people are called, oddly enough, compatibilists. Other people hold that attempts to reconcile responsibility and causation are mistaken. These latter are called incompatibilists.

The response I am interested in exploring here in the Phoenix Nest is somewhat different. I encountered it when studying under Roderick M. Chisholm at Brown University in the late 1960s. Chisholm offered the following alternative to the above dilemma:

  1. When we act freely and responsibly, we, not circumstances nor chance, make happen our actions.

Rather than attacking one of the horns of the dilemma, as compatibilists do, by explaining how we can be responsible for things that had to happen or were mere chance, Chisholm sought to split the horns by offering a third alternative which did not imply that the person was not responsible.

Chisholm referred to his proposal as agency theory. The theory has this special feature: to the extent that we explain behavior by referring to what people do, we are free from attack by the dilemma of free will. To the extent that we allow other kinds of explanations — divine or natural, sub-atomic or neurological, mental or material — to replace people, agents, as causes, we open ourselves up to it.

Hence the significance of my asking whether the cat or the rabbit was aware, was acting intentionally: Are they agents, or at least proto-agents, in the sense of Chisholm's agency theory?

The question is, the question that the stories I will tell in the Phoenix Nest will attempt to address is what is an agent, how does it cause things, and how do we know?

Afterword

Agency theory is not popular among philosophers, still less among cognitive scientists and psychologists. The idea that when people make things happen, it's something causally different than their brains and bodies causing something, a difference that can't be explained through ordinary physiological processes, that idea just doesn't fit the established picture of causal explanation. It gets some play in literature, but mainly because of Chisholm's prestige, and because it seems an easy target. Through my stories I hope to at least resurrect the conversation.

I apologize for casting an abstract, abstruse, philosophical argument in the form of a story, especially here near the beginning of my tour. But without telling the story of agency theory, and it is a story, not a proof, not a well-researched, well-documented, widely accepted theory, that you may accept or reject, in any case, without telling that story, you would miss the significance of making people, and other animals, the subjects of sentences offered to explain behavior. I hope that later stories will be more accessible.

Next Stop

My next stop after leaving Nisqually, Washington was the La Conner RV Park near La Conner, Washington. My daughter Robin and her son Trystan visited me from New Zealand while I was there, as well as my son Greg and his daughter Keala from Seattle. The park and its environs offered a wide range of activities for them.

Comments and Conversation

What follows are comments and conversations I have had with people about this page of The Phoenix Nest.

Dialog 1

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