Category Archives: philosophy

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 […]

Is religion good even if it’s not true?: A deceptive piece in the Daily Beast

Reader Saul called my attention to a Daily Beast article called “Can you be good without God?” (subtitle: “New research raises questions about whether people can be truly good or truly bad without religion”) by Brandon Withrow, who teaches religious studies at the University of Findlay. I call the article “deceptive” in the sense that both the […]

A philosophical catfight in the TLS: Dennett vs Papineau

Matthew called my attention to a series of pieces in the Times Literary Supplement (free online) in which materialist philosophers Dan Dennett (Tufts) and David Papineau (King’s College London) battle it out over a number of philosophical issues. It began with a fairly negative review by Papineau of Dan’s newest book, From Bacteria to Bach […]

More outrage from the Right and the religious about infant euthanasia

UPDATE: Reader Pyers called my attention to a thoughtful piece by Melanie Phillips that analyzes the Gard case. She argues that the parents’ hopes may have been kept alive by the vociferous, bullying, and life-at-all-costs American Right: But here’s the really wicked thing about all this. The parents were reinforced in their refusal to accept […]

More outraged Christian and right-wing venues attack the argument for euthanasia of suffering infants (and the arguer)

I didn’t at all expect the outrage emitted by some news sites—all of them either conservative or religious—over my post about the morality of relieving the suffering of terminally ill, terminally deformed, or terminally diseased newborns by euthanizing them. I’m planning on a longer discussion of this issue elsewhere, but you can read a good argument […]

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 […]