Category Archives: free will

How determinism can help insurance companies deny medical claims

I think this article—which could have come from The Onion but actually came from another “joke news site,” The Beaverton—is hilarious.  Here’s an excerpt; I hope compatibilists have a sense of humor! Chicago, IL – American health insurers have begun classifying all medical claims as pre-existing conditions and refusing to offer settlements because of the […]

SMBC on dualism and free will

Reader jsp sent me this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip (creator: Zack Weinersmith); it’s on dualism. tri-ism, quadrism, and then the final panel bit’s on free will. The character is clearly based on Dan Dennett (see photo at bottom), but I’m a bit puzzled about the last panel. Given the rest of the strip, is this […]

A new paper says that belief in free will makes people more likely to criticize unethical acts and favor strong punishment

People who are determinists but are also compatibilists—that is, they believe that our actions are dictated by the laws of physics, and we can’t “will” them beyond that, but that we can still conceive of some form of free will—often justify their re-framing of “free will” on utilitarian grounds. That is, although we may not have “contracausal” […]

A great Radiolab show: Robert Sapolsky on why we don’t have free will

As I always say, it’s easier to convince a diehard creationist of the truth of evolution than to convince a diehard atheist of the fact that our behaviors are determined, and that we can’t make alternative choices at a given moment. Yet there are some enlightened folk who not only accept determinism but deny that […]

Robert Sapolsky on free will

UPDATE: In a review in The American Scholar, Michael Shermer gives Sapolsky’s book a very positive review, and also has a few words of his own on free will. Shermer’s assessment: The book is Sapolsky’s magnum opus, not just in length, scope (nearly every aspect of the human condition is considered), and depth (thousands of […]

Compatibilism: a parable

I haven’t posted much on free will lately, and I’m sure that’s fine with the compatibilist readers who think my take on the issue is, as the Brits say, “badly wrong.” I stand by my views, and apparently so does Zack Weinersmith, who published “Compatibilism: a parable” on his SMBC comic site.  (Thanks to several […]

Free will: the only kind worth wanting

Reader Michael from the UK sent this poster, which gave him a double take. His notes: I was in my GP’s waiting room this morning & my eyes were drawn to a poster on the noticeboard similar to the one below.  Your free will posts have so thoroughly meme-iated my head that it took me a […]

A new paper suggesting that belief in determinism makes you more empathic and less vindictive

Even though all rational people know that determinism rules human behavior, and in that sense there is no possibility of “choosing otherwise” at a moment of decision—absent quantum effects, which don’t in any way give us “free will”—this conclusion disturbs some people. Our sense of agency is so strong that it’s impossible for many of […]

Saturday: Hili dialogue

The weekend is here, it’s Saturday, January 7 (2017), and the temperature is a balmy 3°F ( -16 °C) in Chicago. It’s National Tempura Day in the U.S., and it’s Christmas in some countries, like Russia, that adhere to the Eastern Orthodox calendar. On this day in 1927, the first transatlantic phone service was established, […]

Another word on free will: does compulsion eliminate it?

In my post on the Annual Edge Question the other day, which gave a link to my short piece on “determinism” on the Edge website, reader Coel made this comment: A hope for the new year is that some commenters here might persuade PCC-E that many compatibilists do not see compatibilist notions of “free will” […]