Category Archives: philosophy

Tom Clark on the upside of determinism

Reader Tom Clark, who runs the site and comments here on that topic, gave a lecture last winter on determinism, and I’ve put the video below. The YouTube notes say this: Talk given for the Campus Atheist and Secular Humanists at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Nov. 2, 2017. For a related article, see “Fully […]

Why do intellectuals avoid discussing free will and determinism?

One thing that’s struck me while interacting with various Scholars of Repute is how uncomfortable many get when they have to discuss free will. I’m not talking about Dan Dennett here, as of course he’s a compatibilist and is glad to cross swords with anybody—while admitting sotto voce that yes, we could not have chosen […]

Raoul Martinez on free will and the implications of determinism

I’ve published related talks by polymath Raoul Martinez before (see here), but not this one: a 17.5-minute talk delivered in 2013 and called “Creating freedom.” It has only a bit more than 36,000 views, and given the importance of its message, it deserves more. I suppose it’s because it’s delivered in a very low key manner, […]

A free course on Effective Altruism, taught by Peter Singer

Coursera is offering a free course in “Effective Altruism“—taught by the famous (and controversial) philosopher Peter Singer—starts on January 22.  Here’s the summary: About this course: Effective altruism is built on the simple but unsettling idea that living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good one can. In this course you will examine […]

E. O. Wilson: confused about free will

An article in the September 14 Harper’s, “On Free Will (and How the Brain is like a Colony of Ants”), gives an excerpt from Wilson’s book released that year, The Meaning of Human Existence.  In the piece and the passage below, Wilson appears to be a sort of compatibilist, but I find his discussion so […]

The myth of responsibility and the lottery of life

This four-minute video on free will and responsibility, narrated by polymath Raoul Martinez, was posted by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA). Martinez’s point is one I’ve made here many times, and will surely get pushback from: determinism rules human behavior, and our “choices” are all predetermined by […]

Robert Sapolsky takes on free will in “Behave”

I wasn’t able to finish Robert Sapolsky’s relatively new book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, for two reasons. First, I found the opening several hundred pages pretty boring. Despite Sapolsky’s valiant attempt to write engagingly—and he can do so in places—the material was a tedious disquisition on hormones, neurons, and other material […]

Dawkins and Krauss on free will

One thing that’s distressed me a bit is the unwillingness of my Big Name Atheist Friends to speak frankly about free will. When asked, as Richard Dawkins was below, what they think of it, they often mumble or deflect the question. Richard’s answer here is the same one he gave when I asked him the […]

My alma mater jumps the shark

It was bad enough that an ACLU talk on free speech at The College of William and Mary (my school, class of 1971) was just shouted down by members of Black Lives Matter, and the College President made pious mutterings about free speech but does nothing. (He hasn’t yet answered my letter.) But that injury […]

A philosopher tries to rescue free will by claiming that individuals exercise “choice” according to their “beliefs, desires,and intentions”

Although I’m suffering from jet lag, I’ll treat you today to a post on free will and “compatibilism”. Yes, I can hear the groans of distress as I write this, but my advice to you is the same as my advice to those who complain about Milo Yiannopoulos lecturing at Berkeley: if you don’t want […]