Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Spinoza

Those who wish to seek out the cause of miracles, and to understand the things of nature as philosophers, and not to stare at them in astonishment like fools, are soon considered heretical and impious, and proclaimed as such by those whom the mob adores as the interpreters of nature and the gods. For these men know that, once ignorance is put aside, that wonderment would be taken away, which is the only means by which their authority is preserved.

- Baruch Spinoza, Ethics (1677)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Free Will: The Compatibilist Alternative

To this point most of my posts on free will have centered on the two extremes of the debate, libertarianism and determinism. But there is a middle way that has often been proposed, namely compatibilism, which will be very appealing if it can preserve what we know about the causal structure of the world as well as the elements of a theory of free will we desire. Over at The Stone Eddy Nahmias (who I have never heard of) has offered the framework of an account of a compatibilist alternative to the problem of free will and determinism. He argues that the apparent problem of reconciling free will with physical determinism is at least in part attributable to the use of a bad account of what free will is. Once this bad definition is replaced by a better one, we can see that free will, while still unexplained in detail by neuroscience, is much less of a philosophical puzzle than it appears.

Cause for celebration, amirite? Get it? Celebration?

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

 This is one of the best beers in the universe.

Appearance-- Beautiful deep coppery color. Full head and nice lacing on the glass.

Smell-- Crisp hoppy aroma, very nice.

Taste-- Delicious, complex. Strong hop flavor. Not exactly balanced, but enough malt character to hold the thing together.

Mouthfeel-- Light, smooth.

Overall-- Fantastic beer. One of my favorites.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Carl Sagan

If we can't think for ourselves, if we're unwilling to question authority, then we're just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.
--Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Hume on Freedom of the Will

Hume recognized that any account of free will has to be made compatible with our knowledge of the causal operations of the world around us. Given that his Treatise is an attempt to detail a "science of man" we should expect that Hume's explanation of human freedom to fit within his naturalistic and empiricist philosophy of nature. This is, in fact, exactly what we get. Hume puts his theory of the will within his general casual account and in doing so offers an interesting solution (or rather, dissolution) to the problem of the compatibility of free will and determinism.