In “How To Live a Lie,” William Irwin considers whether you can live as if there are moral truths, as if God exists, and as if you have free will even if you believe none of these things is true. His conclusion? Morality and God, no … but free will, yes. “Well, I cannot believe in free will, but I can accept it. In fact, if free will fictionalism is involuntary, I have no choice but to accept free will. That makes accepting free will easy and undeniably sincere. Accepting the reality of God or morality, on the other hand, are tougher tasks, and potentially disingenuous.”
In “Evolution Explains It All for You,” Galen Strawson considers Daniel Dennett’s arguments for compatibilism, the idea that “freedom is wholly compatible with determinism, although determinism is the view that everything that happens in the universe is necessitated by what has already happened, so that nothing can ever occur otherwise than it actually does.” Yet, Strawson says, “This compatibilist freedom … seems intensely unsatisfactory. “
In “The Free-Will Scale,” Stephen Cave says that we have an IQ that measures intelligence and also an FQ … freedom quotient … to show how much free will we have. “[T]he comparison with intelligence is revealing. For much of the past 2,000 years in the West, intelligence was conceived in terms of a God-given faculty of reason that set humans wholly apart from other creatures. ‘Intellect’ and ‘will’ were seen by the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, for example, as the two pre‑eminent faculties of the soul, which did not depend at all on the body. Now we know differently: we know that we have evolved through a long process of natural selection and that we share our faculties to varying degrees with other animals. Upon realising this, we did not conclude that there wasn’t really any such thing as intelligence – rather, psychologists set about putting it on a scientific footing. Similarly, we should not say that there is no such thing as free will, just because it is not how the theologians imagined; rather, it is time we put it, too, on a scientific footing.”
Interview with Mary Midgley. “The moral philosopher has, in her 10th decade, become rather fashionable, as her fight to defend human consciousness against the likes of Richard Dawkins gathers admirers around the world.”
When and why did faith start to fade? An interesting review of the reasons and causes of contemporary disbelief. Or maybe faith isn’t fading: The False Equation of Atheism and Intellectual Sophistication.
The deepest self. One model of the self is that you are unconscious impulses that are sometimes but not always restrained by conscious rational processes. But David Brooks says this is not your deepest self. Instead the deepest self is “built through freely chosen suffering” arising from the commitments you make over a lifetime.
“The New Atheist Sam Harris recently offered to pay $10,000 to anyone who can disprove his arguments about morality. Jonathan Haidt analyzes the nature of reasoning, and the ease with which reason becomes a servant of the passions. He bets $10,000 that Harris will not change his mind.” Why? Because “people deploy their reasoning powers to find support for what they want to believe.”
Are we really as unique as we like to think? Stephen Cave considers the evidence. The biological evidence suggests it’s cooperation, “the distinctively human practice of putting heads together.” Does this undermine Hobbes’ view of human nature … or in a way confirm it?
What’s the point of consciousness? David Barash, an evolutionary biologist and “aspiring Buddhist,” suggests that the evolutionary advantage of consciousness “includes our efforts to interpret what other individuals are doing, feeling and thinking, as well as how those others are likely to perceive us in return.” How far is this from Nietzsche’s hypothesis that consciousness is not a self-contained sphere of individuality but is instead a net of communication among individuals?