Category Archives: philosophy

Bertrand Russell on why the term “agnostic” is for show

Reader Dom sent me a Bertrand Russell quote from what appears to be a very short essay, “Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?” (1947) As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that […]

Questions for compatibilists

A long time ago, everyone thought bachelors were unmarried and that it was wrong for a married man, but not a bachelor, to have sex with multiple people.  Then a philosopher got the bright idea of redefining “bachelor” to include “those married men who didn’t have much sex with their wives.”  That redefinition allowed some […]

A critique of my views on free will and the humanities by the man formerly known as “Uncle Eric”

Yes, I’ve been forced to de-avuncularize Eric MacDonald—not on the grounds that he goes after me hard in his latest post, but because his criticisms seem to me manifestly false and even a bit unfair. It’s sad to lose an uncle: first it was Karl Giberson, and now Eric.  And there are no candidates waiting […]

Reader help: The argument from the disprovability of non-existence

The last paragraph of this page, clearly from a Harry Potter book, was quoted by Christopher Hitchen’s in his essay collection Arguably.  I’d like to use it, but I need the name of the Harry Potter book and the page number for the quote.  Full reference, please. There are no prizes except the blessing of […]

“You can’t prove a negative”

Before I begin, I emphasize again that I am not a philosopher, having taken just a few philosophy courses in college and done a fair bit of reading thereafter. What I present below are the lucubrations of a scientist grappling with theology. UPDATE: I should have made clear that I’m talking about a theistic God […]

A bit more on free will

Don’t bother saying that this issue comes up too often here. First, that’s a violation of the Roolz. Second, I can’t help myself: the genesis of this post was determined by the laws of physics. And I want to ask one question, similar to one I asked before, but one that’s been reawakened by recent […]

Tania Lombrozo part 2: It can be rational to have faith

Tania Lombrozo, a Templeton-funded associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, has been writing on the cosmos & culture science website for National Public Radio. Yesterday I discussed what I saw as her gratuitous call for “respectful dialogue” between believers and nonbelievers, which seemed to me an effort to buttress religion’s undeserved […]

The meaning of life

One of many, of course. From today’s Non Sequitur by Wiley h/t: Steve

Two disparate views of free will

Here are two disparate takes on free will by Susan Blackmore and J. P. Moreland.  What they have in common is that both speakers conceive of “free will” in the same way: as dualistic, libertarian free will (Moreland buys it; Blackmore doesn’t). Now that’s the form of free will—the “ghost-in-the-machine” free will—that many readers here […]

Mathematician says he’s proven free will

Matthew Cobb called my attention to an interview with John Horton Conway in Notices of the American Mathematical Society. Conway is a famous mathematician at Princeton who says he’s proven that free will exists. I haven’t seen his formal treatment of the Free Will Theorem, so I can’t say I can evaluate it—much less understand […]


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