Category Archives: Free Will

Harris And Dennett, Again, On Free Will

After posting the Sam Harris interview with Charles Murray last week, I browsed through some of Dr. Harris’s other podcasts. Among them I found a conversation with Daniel Dennett on a topic about which the two of them have had a public spat: free will. Both of these men are, obviously, uncommonly intelligent and articulate, […]

Determinism And Predictability

My friends Kevin Kim and Bill Keezer have been discussing a recent post of Bill’s, in which he argues that the Universe is “undetermined and constrained”. Bill’s post is here, and Kevin’s response, which raises some important objections but stops short, I think, of fully “grasping the nettle”, is here. Bill’s essay begins: For over […]

Whither The Buck?

Sam Harris, the neuroscientist who made his bones as an anti-religious gadfly and member of the atheist “Four Horsemen” (now down, sadly, to three), has been writing and speaking lately about “free will”. The expression is rendered in scare-quotes because in Dr. Harris’s view “free will”, as generally imagined, is an illusion, and less: it […]

Facts Of The Matter

Sam Harris has been addressing the question of free will in a series of short posts (we’ve already commented on the first two, here and very briefly here). Dr. Harris is forthrightly skeptical that free will, as popularly conceived, exists. He seemed concerned, in the first of his posts, to make some sort of case […]

More From Sam Harris On Free Will

Sam Harris has posted a follow-up to his free-will article, here. He expands on his reasons for believing that our commonsense intuitions about free will are false (no argument from me), but says nothing further about the moral-responsibility issues we discussed in our recent post. Related content from Sphere

The Buck Stops Nowhere

In a new article, Sam Harris argues that common notions of free will are incoherent, and are almost certainly at odds with reality. (I think so too.) The problem is that no account of causality leaves room for free will—thoughts, moods, and desires of every sort simply spring into view—and move us, or fail to […]

Nothing To See Here

We are still on vacation, but I did find some time for the blogosphere this evening. I spent it, though, reading and commenting on a fascinating thread about free will over at Bill Vallicella’s place. Here. Related content from Sphere

See Food

We’ve set aside our musings about free will and moral responsibility for a while now, but a story making its way around the grapevine certainly seems relevant. It’s an insanity-defense case from Texas in which the defendant killed his wife and two children. Related content from Sphere

The Meaning Of Life

Dr. William Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, is back in harness after a month-long layoff from blogging. I’m glad he’s back on the job: he is as interesting and provocative as always. I’d like to weigh in on this post in particular, in which he argues that meaning, in particular the meaning of life, must either […]

Stopping The Buck

In scattered posts over the past weeks, we’ve been circling warily around the ancient puzzle of free will, looking from various angles at some of the opinions, beliefs, worries, and wishful thinking that inform our opinions on this vexatious topic. The biggest worry, it seems, is the threat to our moral responsibility posed by the […]

Causes and Cans

Sorry not to have posted anything yesterday; I spent many hours on the road, as well as selling several to my employer. Today also my muse appears to be silent, as happens from time to time — so, looking ahead to resuming our musings on free will, I will simply offer a couple of provocative […]

The Choice Is Yours

One of the most worrisome aspects of determinism, in many people’s minds, is that it means that our deliberation — all our agonizing about the choices we must make in our lives — is a sham. In Daniel Dennett’s excellent book Elbow Room, which I think is one of the best expositions of the “compatibilist” […]

Causes and Reasons

Jeffery Hodges left a comment on our last post about free will (and I do apologize for approaching the subject so circumspectly, over a period of weeks) in which he asked if I was making a distinction between causes and reasons. This is an important question — and indeed I am. Related content from Sphere

The Weakest Link

We’ve been brooding lately on the subject of free will and determinism. For tonight, just a few brief remarks; more to come shortly. Everybody wants free will, of course, but the notion itself is one of those things that look clear enough from a distance, but get harder to make out the closer you look. […]

Wagging The Dog

When we talk about the question of free will, it often seems that we approach the subject rather differently from the way we would look into any other unanswered question about the world. Usually, when we don’t know about something, we ask “what is going on here?”, and examine the observable phenomena, form hypotheses, put […]

What You Mean “We”, Kemosabe?

Yesterday’s musings about free will led us to the question of where our decisions actually come from. Even in our own inner experience, our choices seem simply to float up into our consciousness, and indeed, experimental results strongly suggest that our awareness of our decisions comes after they are already made. Our commenter Pat Goldsmith […]

Who’s In Charge?

The question of free will has been in the air around here lately, and more than one voice has been heard decrying the awful prospect of determinism. I have a rather blithe attitude toward the problem: I don’t think there’s any need to be upset by the notion that our minds are a product of […]