Wednesday, November 7, 2012


“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

― Alexis de Tocqueville

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Human Stubbornness

Years ago, I participated in a series of discussions over whether the Expanded Universe material was considered canonical Star Wars. I wrote to Lucas Licensing and to my surprise, received a response from Howard Roffman, the President of Lucas Licensing. Even more surprising was the directness of his response. "No, it is not."

What was really interesting was the response I received when posting the letter on the discussion boards. Not one person's opinion was changed. NOT ONE. Any one of them could have written and verified that Roffman's letter was authentic. No one did.

I can only imagine that we are just as stubborn regarding relevant controversial issues as well. Skeptics may argue "If only God gave me more evidence, I might believe." Given my experience with something as trivial as the Star Wars canon, I highly doubt it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Definition of Free Will

I have yet to encounter a philosophical argument against libertarian free will that does not commit a straw man fallacy. The error usually occurs when an opponent of libertarian free will tries to give some sort of exhaustive definition of libertarian free will. After giving the definition, they will then attack it for being unintelligible or incoherent. This very line of reasoning is fallacious. Here's why:

Some terms can be defined exhaustively. A circle, for example, can be defined exhaustively as a closed plane curve consisting of all points at a given distance from a point within it called the center. There is nothing more to a circle than that. Other terms, such as time, liberty, knowledge, and cause, have resisted all attempts for philosophers to give an exhaustive definition. Sure, they can be defined, but we generally do not know them through their definition. We can pick out instances of these things, even if we cannot give a complete definition of such terms. Free will is like that. We acknowledge it every time we give a person praise or blame for their actions, and every time we hold someone morally accountable, such as in a trial. Hence, these terms can only be given loose or general (non-exhaustive) definitions. Here are such definitions for free will and libertarian free will.

Free will: the unique ability of persons to exercise control over their conduct in the fullest manner necessary for moral responsibility.

Libertarian Free Will: Non-deterministic free will.

Any other definition for either of these terms is a straw man fallacy. Once we acknowledge these definitions, however, the entire philosophical case against the coherence of free will disappears.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Compatibilism and Divine Determinism

The Consequence Argument is one of the main reasons that compatibilism (the idea that determinism and free will are compatible) is almost dead in the realm of philosophy. Here is a simple, non-technical version of the argument. Let's assume determinism is true:

1. No one has power over the facts of the past and the laws of nature (and perhaps the decree of God).
2. No one has power over the fact that the facts of the past and the laws of nature (and perhaps the decree of God) entail every fact of the future (i.e., determinism is true).
3. Therefore, no one has power over the facts of the future.

This argument has nearly killed compatibilism, because without being able to assert that we have power over the future, a compatibilist has no basis upon which to draw a distinction between a free act and an unfree act.

Hence, divine determinism is not compatible with free will.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Psychology and Autopilot

People misunderstand Psychology and Neuroscience, thinking that it shows human behavior to be deterministic. We make thousands of decisions each day, such as whether to start walking with the left or right foot. We put most of these decisions on autopilot. What Psychology and Neuroscience do is help us understand how this autopilot works.