Category Archives: philosophy

In which I diverge from Steve Pinker on free will

Well, I’m not always in accordance with the views of Steve Pinker, and I found this short Big Think video he did on free will (full transcript below) in which we part company in several ways. Granted, not completely. Steve is still a determinist here (to some extent; but see below). For instance, he says […]

IDers resurrect First Cause argument, claim that it’s convincing and that Dawkins and I are too stupid to understand it

LOL! Michael Egnor, as we saw yesterday, is a Christian neurosurgeon, while David Klinghoffer is an Orthodox Jew. Both are goddy Intelligent Design (ID) advocates who write for Evolution News, a site that has largely abandoned providing “scientific” evidence for ID to launching attacks on its opponents. I am quite proud that both of these […]

Postmodernism explained—and criticized

The title of this 2017 article in Areo by Helen Pluckrose (also editor of the site) pulls no punches, and the piece is well worth reading—unlike the tedious and impenetrable lucubrations of the postmodernists themselves. Pluckrose not only explained postmodernism clearly—well, as clearly as one can—but also outlined the dangers it poses to academic education […]

More squabbling about free will in Quillette: William Edwards now finds libertarian free will in the “singularities” of physics

In July, writer and philosopher William Tomos Edwards wrote a piece in Quillette called “The Academic Quarrel over Determinism“. This irked me because Edwards wound up arguing that whether or not libertarian “you-could-have-done-otherwise” free will be true, we should believe in it anyway because the payoff (a better society and more individual well being) outweighs the […]

Philosopher: Do not sign petitions

Agnes Callard is one of my colleagues: an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago. She was recently asked to sign a petition opposing the deplatforming of philosophers who didn’t share ideologically acceptable views of sex and gender. Although I agree with that petition, Callard didn’t sign it—but not because she disagreed with […]

More mishigas about free will, this time in the TLS

The Times Literary Supplement, which I used to write for, doesn’t often make its articles free online, but this one was (click on screenshot below to see it). And it’s about free will: a review of three books on the topic (The Limits of Free Will: Selected essays by Paul Russell, Aspects of Agency: Decisions, […]

Philosophy professor writes embarrassing prayer in NYT, asking God not to stop shootings, but to make us better people so we won’t shoot each other

I haven’t read “The Stone”—the philosophy column of the New York Times—in quite a while, but I seem to remember that it was very soft on faith and very hard on atheism. Well, today’s piece, by George Yancy, continues that tradition. (Yancy is a philosophy professor at Emory University, specializing in in critical whiteness studies, critical […]

Another philosopher in Quillette goes after my determinism, and proposes a compatibilist definition of “free will”

Not long ago I read a piece in Quillette, “The Academic Quarrel over Determinism,” written by William Edwards, described as an “independent scholar” and “founder of Bright Tapestry Data, a company pushing back on misinformation and fake news.” Edwards’ piece, about determinism and free will, seemed pretty muddled, and wound up arguing that even if […]

Once more: Why Christian List’s “proof of free will” fails

I’ve already written twice about the views of Christian List on free will, views called to my attention by Michael Shermer (see here and here). My interpretation of List’s views are that while he’s a physical determinist for molecules, he thinks that there is true libertarian “you could have done otherwise” free will on the […]

More about Christian List’s confusing views of free will

Yesterday I analyzed the free-will ideas of Dr. Christian List, a professor of political science and philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In a long conversation with Michael Shermer, he expressed what I saw as his belief in libertarian free will that was still compatible with pure physical determinism of molecules. […]