Choose a topic

.. Art
Fake art

.. Cognition
General Artificial Intelligence
Observing My Experience

.. Epistemology
Dialectics and Evolution

.. Evolution
What is a Species?
Why are Tropical Birds So Colorful

.. HUM
A Mind

.. Society
Cut Energy Use
Emotional Plague
Improving Democracy
Jesus and the Money Changers
Merry Christmas
Misinformation and disinformation
Moral Hazard
Red flags
Reusable Bags
Sleeping in a tent
Social Media

Culture is Ordinary

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Excellence is a Plateau
Is this picture real?
NonFungible Tokens
Public Art
Tearing Down Statues
What is Art?
Working With Reality

Artificial Intelligence and the Collingridge Dilemma.
Bird Brains
Bounded Rationality
Competence Without Comprehension
Consciousness is More Like Fame Than Television
Developmental Processes
Emergence and Cognition
Gender dysphoria
I Lost My Knife
Incomplete Information and Stories
Intelligence and Motivation
Is free will an illusion?
Natural Law
Necessary Illusions
On Affordances
Pencil and Paper
Post Phenomenology
Reflective Equilibrium
Return of the Law of Forms
Shifting Meanings
Structures of Understanding
Taking Things on Faith
The Hard Problem
The I Love You Gesture
The Imagined Order
The Phenomenology of Swim Bladders.
Thinking about medical procedures
Thinking About Risk
Underdetermination and Redundancy
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
What Does Google Know?
What is going on?

A Country Is Not Like A Company
Alternate ideas lying around waiting for disaster
Blood and Money
Can Capitalism Survive?
Do Our Minds Own Our Bodies?
Everyday Communism
Invisible Hand
Job Creators
Job Destroyers
Money and Value
Money is Different
National Accounts
Necessary Production
Paper Wealth
Post Capitalist Society
Profit Motive Fails
Rentier Capitalism
Social Wealth vs Surplus Value
Spending Money Into Existence
The Metaphysics of Money
The Ontology of Debt
Thinking about Money
Wealth is What Money Buys

Blowing Up Pipelines

Absolute Knowledge
I do not know everything
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
Rethinking Knowledge
Rethinking Knowledge
Semiotics and Body Language
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
The Past and the Future.
Uncertainty and Unpredictability
Whatever happened to The Truth?

Body Plans
Competition and Cooperation
Dr Malthus would be pleased
Error Correction
Evolution Defended
Evolution is not Religion
Evolution of Cars
Forces of Nature
Is Natural Selection Obsolete?
Politics and Evolution
The Evolution of Purpose.
The Problem with Natural Selection.
The Source of Bad Behavior
Thinking about Tails
Why Does a Leopard Have Spots?

Free Speech in the age of Twitter
Freedom and Badness
Freedom and Morality
Freedom From and Freedom To
Freedom in the Age of Convoys
Libertarian Coercion

10 Views of Landscape
Affect and Effect
I pay rent.
Listening to Corn
The Reform vs Revolution Paradox
What is Public Schooling For?

Levels of Abstraction
Levels of Abstraction and Minds
What is a newspaper?

As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

Emotional Plague
Memes: Imitated Behavior.
The Problem with Memes
What is a replicator?

Beyond Rules Based Morality
Freedom and Morality
Moral Realism.
What do we owe animals?


Maps and Territories
Metaphysics Without Absolutes
Philosophy Buds
Sincerely Held Beliefs
Sorites Paradox
Stereoscopic Vision and The Hard Problem
The Gorilla in the Room of Science
The Purpose of Science
What is Going On?

If It Walks Like a Duck
Right Wing Freedom
The Sovereign Citizen
Tyranny of the Majority


Constructed Life
Correlation Wins
Quack Doctors
The Great Shattering
The Material Space
Thinking about Interconnection
Too Small to See
Watching Pigeons
Weirdness in Physics

A Job
A society needs a government.
Babies and Bathwater
Belly of the Beast
Cultural Appropriation
Drag Story Tellers
Family Values
Governance and Power
Griefers and Misinformation and Disinformation
I Distrust the News
Inclusion and Christmas
Its a Free Country
Life Extension
Moral Decline
Open Society and Falsification
Parents, Children, and Community
Rethinking Rights
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Should We Go to Mars?
Social vs Individual Responsibility.
Society and The State
Society evolved
Spheres of Influence
The Care and Feeding of Free Speech
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Common Good
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Homeless
The Problem with Hedonism
The Rule of Law.
Thoughts on Justice
To the Moon
Trial by jury
Virtue Signalling
We Live in the Present
What is to be said?
What made freedom a bad word?
Why is there a shortage of nurses?
Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

Implications of Very Productive Technology
Modest Proposal
Problems with Universal Basic Income
Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs

Is free will an illusion?

We're autonomous

The concept of free will is a key part of the Western philosophic tradition. Philosophers have thought that unless we have free will and unless we consider people responsible for what they choose then a lot of law and morality become incoherent. If I intentionally choose to steal a watch that's one thing. If the watch falls into my bag and I inadvertently carry it away that's another thing. Even though in both cases I've carried somebody else's property away. Similarly the concept of free will is seen to underlie praising people for their actions. They are praised much less if the action wasn't the result of their free will.

But how can there possibly be free will?l If one thinks that reality is deterministic, that every effect has a cause, there seems to be no place for a 'free' choice. Since 'free' has been taken by many to mean 'uncaused' in this context. Some think that the possibility of free will indicates that reality must be indeterministic in some sense. And indeed people often point to quantum mechanics as showing that the universe is indeterminate and that this makes free will possible.

But think about it - would you really consider a state where your actions were uncaused a state of freedom? You're sitting in your chair. You get up and put sugar on the cat - for no reason. Then you scratch your head - for no reason. Then laugh hilariously - for no reason. If you saw a person acting like that would you consider them to be free? If you found yourself acting like that would you be rejoicing your freedom.

The concept of free will is linked to a certain view of consciousness. In this view we are controlled by consciousness. That is, we gain information about reality and then 'we' decide what to do. That was a popular story for a long time - but that doesn't seem to be the way it works. Introspection (at least for me) reveals that I can never find the time when I am making a decision. Instead the decision is made in some way and I become aware of that.

So does this all mean that free will is an illusion; that we may seem to be free but really aren't? Thinkers like Dan Dennett and Sam Harris who have been writing about this are derided by critics for taking this stance - that free will is an illusion. That we have internally the illusion of free will that is part of our experience of reality, and we have externally they myth of free will that underpins our legal and moral thinking. They are derided for 'explaining away' free will and consciousness.

But maybe something more interesting is happening. Both Dennett and Harris acknowledge that we feel free. They don't say this feeling is an illusion. In fact they talk about the feeling in detail, from an experiential level to the function such a feeling would have. You don't talk about illusions that way. But they do say pretty clearly that the old folk philosophical ideas that were stimulated by those experiences were just wrong. Let's be clear - the experiences aren't illusions. It's just that the ancient explanations for them are wrong.

How can we think of free will? Perhaps we can start by dropping the connotation of 'without cause' from the idea of 'free'. We can replace the 'without cause' idea with 'for my own reasons'. Doing things for my own reasons is compatible with determinism.

Admittedly that presents the issue on a very abstract level and lots of work needs to be done to ground that abstract level in physical reality. But it seems to me that that work is already well advanced.

What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.