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Archive for April, 2011

The Belief in Free Will Rocks!

That is right. Believing in free will is great.

You know, free will, that odd ability to, of my own accord, choose to eat a muffin instead of a bagel or a bagel instead of a muffin. That special ability that makes both of these possible and the choice of one of them stem from me rather than something external of me. That magical ability that allows me to eat that bagel by my own volition. What power. What awesomeness. What a load of…

Err…umm. As I was saying. Belief in free will. It gives us such totally cool things like:

  • Allows us to blame people who are not to blame. Isn’t that super? Who wouldn’t want to put the smackdown on an undeserving person?
  • Allows us to be more deserving than others. Who wouldn’t want to put themself above others? Sweet! A great excuse to horde everything for yourself.
  • Allows us to make unfair laws. Fairness is for suckers anyway.
  • Allows us to disregard causes. We can just blame the person instead of look for a cause. Trying to find causes is way too much work. Think of the energy we save.

I can go on and on about the pure awesomeness that the belief in free will grants us.

Too bad I don’t believe in free will.

My name is ‘Trick Slattery, and I am an incompatibilist.

A hard incompatibilst to be precise (go ahead, feel the muscles). This means that I believe free will is incompatible in both a deterministic universe as well as an indeterministic universe. That it is a logical impossibility. I explain why in the book
Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind coming to future near you. Why would I put out such a book with all of the awesomeness that the belief in free will entails? Hmmm, good question.

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Philosophy books should be for everyone

April 22, 2011 2 comments

We need to start moving philosophy out of academia’s grasp and into the limelight of the layperson. One should not have to memorize all of the philosophical terminology and jargon to read, understand, and enjoy a book about an important philosophical topic.

There are philosophers out there who think using big philosophical words gives them an air of authority. Indeed it does, but it is all hot air. What it also does is make their books difficult for the average person to read and understand the topic. People that philosophy would be important to. It places the book into a bin of academia, and it never leaves that bin.

These books become relics of intellectual thought that serve no real world purpose. It is not because the book does not have real world considerations, just that those real world considerations are never considered by the majority population. These books are large, boring, and hard to read books that are riddled with ambiguities and confusions. They require a study of words that far surpass what the general population care to take the time and effort to study.

And it is not necessary.

If I were to make the statement: “epistemology should precede ontology”, those that are familiar with philosophy would know exactly what I mean by those words. They know what epistemology is, and they know what ontology is. I could have made the statement: “the study of knowledge should precede the study of existence or reality”. Which one of these would be clearer to the layperson? Which one is more specific? Which one has the larger audience? Sure one takes more words, and we might have to do some further explaining, but the goal is to be as clear as we can – for as many people as we can.

Some people read philosophical books and they think they were written well. They think the usage of philosophical jargon, and the authors large vocabulary, is good writing. Good writing is having the ability to write in a way that is understandable to the majority of readers. If you have an important philosophical understanding that you want others to understand, does it make more sense to limit your audience?

I would suggest that writing with jargon is actually easier than writing for the larger audience. It is more difficult to make every sentence be meaningful to everyone, than it is to use words and not explain them. To force people to have to refer to a dictionary of philosophical terminology. Not to mention it makes it much easier to appear like you know what you are talking about when you do not. Many philosophers hide behind a pile of ambiguous and confusing words. Those who have not immersed themselves into understanding the jargon read the words and think “this guy is smart”, even if they cannot fully parse the words.

Some philosophers know this, and use this to their advantage. Some philosophers search for layperson clarity, but this does not seem to be the common goal of many.

Don’t get me wrong, at times technical words are required in a work of philosophy. When one is used however, it should always be defined and clarified prior to its usage. Once it is clarified what the author means by the word, certainly they can use the word instead of a longer description each time. Many times, however, such words are not needed at all. The sentence can be made clear without the words.

That is, if the author cares about having a wider audience, which to me, seems silly not to care. The whole point of philosophy is not to stroke your own ego and look smart. The whole point is to make the world a better place. At least this is what I believe the focus of philosophy should be about.

Philosophy should be for everyone, not just those in small academic circles. Everyone should be able to read and understand it. Removing unnecessary jargon is not dumbing down the subject matter, it is making it better.

What do you think? Should philosophers be looking at the larger audience?

Science vs. Philosophy – A Fictional War

There are some people who think that science and philosophy are at odds. Even Stephen Hawking in his book The Grand Design states that philosophy is dead. That it has not kept up with modern science.

But what is meant when we say “philosophy”? Certainly not all philosophy is equal. Certainly conceptions that are logical or illogical can be accounted for without applying the methodologies of science. Do not misread this. I think science to be one of our best epistemological standards (standards of knowledge). There is nothing quite like it. But even making the statement that it is one of our best epistemological standards relies on our use of philosophy. We might say “because it uses evidence, and is the most reliable and consistent”, which I would suggest is true, but how and why those things apply to knowledge are in the realm of thinking about them philosophically.

If we cannot determine something using the scientific method, should we really dismiss all concepts that are not scientifically verifiable? There are questions that science is moving toward answering, but that can be determined without the use of science already.

Neuroscience, for example, is moving toward the direction that we really do not have free will (defined in a specific way). But if we determine free will to be as illogical as the notion of a colorless red square circle (which the case for this is made in the book I am writing), do we really have to wait for science to catch up before we make the conclusion?

How about ethics? Can we really have developed an ethical system by science alone? I think science should be involved, but don’t think we can create an ethical system without philosophy.

And what of scientific interpretations? Should these be discarded as well? If so, all of those quantum interpretations, which really are the philosophy of the scientific results, need to be abandoned as well. We should all take an instrumentalist approach.

Not to mention that science is a specific methodology of logic. It falls under the umbrella of philosophy for determining verifiable is’s. Classical logic existed way before our current day scientific method. The law of non-contradiction, law of identity, and law of excluded middle, are every bit as consistent and reliable.

Science and philosophy are compatible. They work together. I don’t think there will ever be a day when science can answer all of the questions. Nor does it have to.

How about you? Do you think philosophy is obsolete? Can the use of logic answer important questions? Leave me a comment.

My First Blog Post

I figure it is time to blog about things in my head during my journey of writing my first non-fiction book: Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind (tentative title). I have been writing this book for quite a number of years in my spare time. Mostly during my lunch hour at work and break. Due to this it is a slow going process. I am over 54,000 words in on my first draft. I am thinking it will end up at around 60,000 or so words. Then it is time to edit and polish it(translation: rewrite it). I intend to illustrate the book myself. Two of my fortes are art and philosophy, so I figure they will make for a good combination in my book.

The book itself is a work of passion. I am passionate about this topic, and I debate it often. It is a topic that I have been thinking about for over fifteen years now. I am what, in philosophical terms, is called a hard incompatibilist. This means that I believe free will is incompatible in both a deterministic universe as well as an inderministic universe. That free will is logically impossible.

The book goes into why this is the case, and in my opinion, the case is undeniable. But the intention of the book is not just to explain why this is so in laypersons terms, but to explain what it all means and why it is so important. It IS important. It is also my intention to explain why the psychology that the notion of free will has imposed is harmful. One that has been keeping humanity down.

Of course this will be controversial, so I expect backlash. Especially from those that do not give the book a chance. My blog posts will be sort of sporadic, quick thoughts as I write my book. They may be about philosophy, about book writing, about publishing, or just about some off topic subject I have been thinking about.