If only I weren’t determined to fight about free will!

The Chronicle of Higher Education is holding an essay symposium on Free Will and I have so many problems with Jerry Coyne's contribution: "You Don't Have Free Will."  To begin with, I have a general suspicion that the debate over free will is terrible at least in part because the definition of free will is incoherent.  (Yudkowsky has a good essay on recognizing and defusing definitional debates).What we are fumbling after is the reason we are morally culpable for our own actions.  Why do we t … [Read more...]

Free Will and Timeless Observers

After reading my post on decidedly undivine First Causes, one commenter had a question about my position on free will.  I had referenced a quote from Arcadia, If you could stop every atom in its position and direction, and if your mind could comprehend all the actions thus suspended, then if you were really, really good at algebra you could write the formula for all the future; and although nobody can be so clever as to do it, the formula must exist just as if one could. Butterfly5906 asked … [Read more...]

Sam Harris, Psychopaths, and Moral Culpability

Sam Harris is blogging about morality and free will, and one of his examples puts me in mind of our discussion about culpability, hate, and radical forgiveness.  Harris doesn't think free will is a coherent concept, but he doesn't see that fact as precluding any discussion of culpability.  I want to focus more on the example he provides than his explanation, but, for the sake of completeness, here's what he has to say: What does it really mean to take responsibility for an action? For instance, … [Read more...]

Trying to Will Your Beliefs (A Case Study)

There's been a fair amount of discussion on this blog lately about whether people can choose their beliefs or whether beliefs are compelled by evidence (and then some more about what this all means for free will).  Good news for me, because that was all the excuse I needed to post the following excerpt from Harry Potter  and the Methods of Rationality, a fanfiction story written by AI research Eliezer Yudkowsky.In Yudkowsky's story, Harry was raised by a science professor instead of the D … [Read more...]


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