Category Archives: morality

Dennett tries to save free will, fails

I’ve long been puzzled by the many writings of “compatibilists”: those philosophers and laypeople who accept physical determinism of our choices and behaviors, but still maintain that we have a kind of “free will.” Such people reject the classical form of free will that’s been so important to many people (especially religious ones)—the kind of “libertarian” free will that […]

Brain-damaged man executed for murder—but all criminals are “brain damaged”

Last night the state of Missouri executed by lethal injection the convicted murderer Cecil Clayton. Clayton, however, was brain-damaged, and in a way that probably contributed to his crime. The situation is described by The Guardian: The state of Missouri executed its oldest death row inmate on Tuesday – a man who was mentally impaired from a […]

Is ISIS full of “true believers”?

You’ve probably seen or heard about the discussion between Sam Harris and Graeme Wood over at Sam’s website, a discussion called “The true believers.” Wood, of course, has become famous—and notorious—for his analysis of ISIS’s theological background in a piece that appeared in The Atlantic (see my post for the link). Wood’s thesis, which he supported […]

A philosopher asserts that there are “moral facts”, and we’re messing up our kids’ education by not telling them that

One thing that disturbs me about naturalism is the increasingly frequent contention that there are objective moral “facts” or “truths,” which can somehow be discerned scientifically. I don’t agree with that, since at bottom I think that what one sees as “right” or “wrong” ultimately rests on a set of subjective preferences that can’t be […]

“Do the right thing”: changing morality and the Friendship Nine

If you are too young to have lived through the civil rights era in the U.S., you probably haven’t heard of the “Friendship Nine.” They were a group of black men who, in 1961, decided to commit an illegal but nonviolent act of resistance to the odious segregation laws in South Carolina. (The name of the group […]

“The dark side of free will”

Gregg Caruso is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Corning Community College, as well as chief editor of the journal Science, Religion, and Culture.  In this ten-minute TEDx talk, he discusses what he calls the “dark side of free will”. Note that the “free will” he’s speaking of is contracausal (libertarian) free will (the idea that at any […]

Bucky Catt, “free won’t,” free will, Dan Dennett, and Templeton

The concept of “free won’t” was, I recall, floated by researcher Benjamin Libet, the first person to show that our brain can make simple but predictable “decisions” that can be detected and predicted by researchers (using brain scans) before the subject is conscious of having made a decision.  Although, said Libet, we may not be able […]

Dan Fincke responds to me, claiming morality is objective

I previously wrote about Dan Fincke’s talk at the Pittsburgh Atheist and Humanist meetings, in which he claimed that there is indeed an objective morality: one based on “human flourishing.” It was only a 20-minute talk, as were all of them, so he couldn’t lay out his thesis in detail, and I had to respond […]

Dawkins decries taboos in discussions about society

If you pay any attention to internet atheist sites, or to reporting about atheist brouhahas by the likes of the Independent and the Guardian (for whom Dawkins is a favorite whipping boy), you can hardly be unaware about the fracas surrounding Dawkins’s latest tweets. I suppose he was fed up by a segment of the atheist […]

The bonobo and the atheist-basher, part 2

I’ve now finished Frans de Waal’s book, The Bonobo and the Atheist, and my final evalution is what I said yesterday: it’s a decent disquisition on the evolutionary “roots” of human morality–roots discerned in behaviors like empathy, altruism, and concern for equity in our closest relatives, the chimpanzees. The book is useful reading for its eye-opening tales of […]


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