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A very fine work, published in 2014 by OUP, is Derk Pereboom's Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life. This extends his very important and influential work on free will and moral responsibility, tying these issues to meaning in life. Pereboom's work is ground-breaking, and has shown that something like "hard determinism," or, in his term, "hard incompatibilism," is not as bad as it seems (as in Mark Twain's comment about Wagner's music).
First, my original post was a bit garbled, so I posted an "erratum" below. Sorry. Second, I don't spend much time complaining. I do spend a lot of time supporting my and other graduate students, in whatever ways I possibly can. But to do this I have to be efficient, and thus I hate systems that require me to waste time; I'd rather be spending time on supporting graduate students and addressing the really difficult challenges of our profession in these difficult times.
ERRATUM: Anon: I do get it. Senior academics have a cushy life, and we complain way too much. I would however distinguish between the many hours we put in to do necessary and even supererogatory things, like refereeing papers, writing letters for grad students and others on the job market, promotion and tenure letters, writing comments on papers, etc., and just wasting time doing things inefficiently. It would be totally objectionable for us to complain about the first sorts of things, which many of us do quite a lot of (and admittedly sometimes gripe about). What is frustrating, on the other hand, is *wasting* time doing stuff that could fairly easily be done so much more efficiently. Also, note that you are writing/uploading letters for one undergraduate, and each takes about fifteen minutes. Many (or at least some) people write letters for say 4 to 6 undergraduates each year. If they each apply to (what?) fifteen schools, and each letter takes about fifteen minutes to upload, it adds up--and people are pointing out, reasonably, that this could be set up more efficiently. Or so it seems to me.
"The Gift" is really interesting and worth seeing. I also highly recommend "Wild Tales". Both of these films deal with the topic of revenge. I think you'll enjoy them! Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Congratulations to Kadri Vihvelin on the publication of her book, *Causes, Laws, and Free Will,* with Oxford University Press. Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2013 at Flickers of Freedom
Thanks again for Tom Nadelhoffer for this great opportunity. This'll be my last post (this time around), as I'm off Saturday morning for the JTF Board Mtgs in Philadelphia. I hope to be able to reply on the comments thread either as I travel or early next week, but don't... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2012 at Flickers of Freedom
Gary Watson and Irving Thalberg both noted this problem many years ago--in the 1970s. (A very cool decade, by the way.) But it has been ignored or, in my view, underappreciated, in favor of the "regress problem" and "manipulation worries"--admittedly, big problems for the hierarchical picture of agency. Here's the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2012 at Flickers of Freedom
The last post dealt with the relationship between identification and the real self. Let's here assume that identification can indeed specify the "real self", for the purposes of agency. Now I want to ask: what is the relationship between the real self (so understood) and acting freely (and thus moral... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2012 at Flickers of Freedom
Thanks very much to Thomas Nadelhoffer for the invitation. I really appreciate it. And greetings to everyone from Muenster, Germany, where I have a research post at the Center for Advanced Study on Bioethics and am on sabbatical this Fall. Soon (Oct 18-20) we are having a conference on autonomy... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2012 at Flickers of Freedom
Since many of the "metaphors" or phrases Kadri mentions are mine, perhaps I could simply first express my agreement with Neal Tognazzini that our discipline would be horribly dull and lifeless if we insisted on colorless ways of expressing ourselves. Or perhaps Kadri prefers Peter Strawson's epithets for the libertarian view, such as "panicky metaphysics"? I don't really wish to "rise" to this occasion. I think that Kadri's worries that key terms an views need to be made as explicit as possible is well-taken. I would like, however, gently to sugggest that there are plenty of "details" and "arguments" in my work and the work of such philosophers as Van Inwagen, Ginet, Clarke, McKenna, and others who have coined some of the terms Kadri is so distressed about. In the end, I fear that no view about the complex cluster of issues we are all so passionate about will be able to be stated in a fully reductionistic and completely nonmetaphorical way. (Even, I suspect, a view in terms of "bundles of dispositions".) Perhaps we can have just a little fun along the way? And perhaps we can try our best to interpret our opponents charitably and to take each other's views seriously.
Toggle Commented Mar 19, 2010 on Clearing the Path at Flickers of Freedom
I'm looking forward to reading Helen's article; if it is anything like her other pieces, it will be a challenging and insightful paper. But I'm still wondering (although perhaps I should wait until I read it--but then again what's the point of a blog, anyway???)--why can't my general arguments against PAP be recast, mutatis mutandus, into arguments against the requirement of alternative possibilities for agency? What exactly is the diffeence?
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2010 on Flickers of Agency at Flickers of Freedom
I might be missing something, but I think the same considerations apply to agency as apply to moral responsibility. So why should the existence of mere flickers of freedom be required for agency? Why should the existence of such flickers transform something from a mere event into an action? I replied to Helen Steward in my contribution to the JOET 10th Anniversary issue on my work.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2010 on Flickers of Agency at Flickers of Freedom
Another story about Myles Brand. Some years ago UC Riverside made the decision to go Division I in athletics. This is a major transition for any school, and UCR has struggled in some ways, especially given these very difficult financial times. I asked Myles whether he would be willing to come to the campus to discuss the issues involved in making the transition to Division I, and he very kindly and graciously agreed to come, at no cost to the university, and he spent a few days with our faculty, staff, and students.
Toggle Commented Sep 17, 2009 on Myles Brand at >-- The Garden of Forking Paths --<
Yes, thanks for this excellent post, Andrei. Myles Brand did important work on action theory, and h was also a first-class academic administrator. I'm amused at the thought that it took an "Action Theorist" to take action to fire Bobby Knight at IU! Even when he was busy in top administrative posts, he continued to follow debates in Action Theory, broadly construed to include free will/moral responsibility. He was on the Advisory Board to Philosophy Talk. I doubt that Myles Brand will go down in history for his contributions to Philosophy or Action Theory, as his administrative work is much more salient to the public. But I have always thought it very cool that "one of us" (in some sense) could do so well on the public stage.
Toggle Commented Sep 16, 2009 on Myles Brand at >-- The Garden of Forking Paths --<
Given all the awards and honors recently won by our very own Neal Tognazzini and Neil Levy, I suggest we all adopt the doctrine of "Nealism". Or is it "Neilism"?
Despite some exceptions, such as (among others) Nous, PPR, and Philosophers' Imprint, we have a real problem in our profession. I have had my share of "interesting" experiences with journals over the years, but I have been absolutely shocked to read in various threads on this blog and others, including the Garden of Forking Paths and Certain Doubts, about 17-month waits from journals (and more)--with no comments, or worse, hostile or unhelpful comments. This is devastating to the whole idea of an intellectual community with genuine discussions of issues of shared interest. As has been noted, it hurts all of us, but especially younger philosophers. I've thought about this situation for some time. Despite my respect for David Velleman and my sympathy with some of his worries, I wish to express my strong support for the serious consideration of something like David Chalmers' proposal (suitably revised, if necessary). It seems to me to be on the right track, and it also seems to me to be possible to implement it. Perhaps this is the kind of reasonably specific, clear, and constructive proposal that the leadership of the APA could consider.
I met Professor Cohen at the conference at Wake Forest University in honor of Harry Frankfurt some years ago. I had never met him, although I had read some of his work on Marxism and political philosophy. I was absolutely amazed that he knew so much about free will, and, in particular, the Frankfurt counterexamples (or purported counterexamples) to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities. We had a wonderful conversation about such matters. He had obviously read an incredible amount of this vast literature, and it was great fun to talk with him about it. What a wonderful surprise to know of his interest in this area of philosophy. Also, I think I was not the only person at this conference to think that his "after dinner" remarks were the funniest, most hilarious "stand-up comedy" I have ever heard--and not just by a philosopher (which would not be a high bar, admittedly). I'm so very sorry to hear of his death.
Thanks very much for this post, Justin. As a card-carrying and not-so-secret member of the "cabal", I commend your moderation and sensitivity in expressing the concerns, which I also share. A great thing about the Garden has been its--well--freedom, and we want to protect that. But we also want to be a high-quality and focussed locus of discussion. If the voluntary self-monitoring doesn't work, or only works selectively, I will work with Justin to formulate and implement some more draconian policies. We don't want to have to do that, so please try to keep your comments as tightly focussed on the relevant issues as possible, and as concise as possible. The point of the threads is discussion, not self-advertisement. (I say this as someone whose last contribution to the interesting post by Grant Rozeboom was an advertisement for my new book... !!) PLEASE take Justin's post seriously!
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2009 on Some Concerns at >-- The Garden of Forking Paths --<
Grant, Thanks very much for your excellent post. I hope it is not excessively obnoxious for me to mention that in the introductory essay in my new OUP book, OUR STORIES: ESSAYS ON LIFE, DEATH, and FREE WILL, I have some ruminations on related issues. More specifically, I explore in a preliminary way the puzzling fact that some philosophers find the locus of true freedom in "close calls" (torn decisions), whereas others find it in "clear cases". I'd also be interested in others' views about why philosophers disagree on this point; it has always struck me and puzzled me.
I believe that our moral responsibility and personhood should not "hang on a thread". That is, we shouldn't have to give up our views of ourselves as deeply different from mere animals and as morally responsible (in a robust sense), if we were convinced that causal determinism were true. I have sought to present a theory of moral responsibility according to which moral responsibility is compatible with casual determinism. It would be equally problematic, in my view, if our moral responsibility depended on the truth of causal determinism. In this case, moral responsibility would also hang on a thread. Thus I have always thought there must be SOME answer to the "luck" problem for the libertarian. In my paper for the Law and Neuroscience Colloquium in London, I seek to provide at least a sketch of an answer to the luck problem. It is not completely worked out yet, but I'm trying... So wish me luck (er, but not too much!!)...