About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Monday, April 30, 2012

On free will at Talking Philosophy

Quite a debate going on at Talking Philosophy, where I created a thread about free will and Sam Harris. I continue to be amazed at the way we get individuals making stuff up from their armchairs about what the folk think free will is - without any evidence from actual studies of what they think, or any study of how free will and related subjects have been understood historically by philosophers, or any study of how such themes seem to be/have been treated in myth, literary narrative, and popular culture.

All of those would seem to me to be reasonable sources of evidence of what kinds of things are really being bugging ordinary people - and have bugged them historically - when they think about free will and related ideas (such as fate, determinism, and moral responsibility). We might also get into some good old-fashioned conceptual analysis comparing our theories to our intuitions about examples. That's a good start to refining how we must be conceiving of some idea, though it has its limitations. But instead, it seems that some of my interlocutors (and Sam Harris is also rather guilty of this) just know the answers to these questions, apparently based on their own idiosyncratic life experience and whatever intutions it has given them about how other people must think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Russ, don't get too worked up over these loser. Some people just never get philosophy.