Friday, September 23, 2016

More on Free Will

Finally a way to prove that free will occurs. If A always leads to B and B always leads to C, and if C does not follow after A, then a free choice has occurred. Example: Whenever I get drunk I always fall asleep an hour later because I always sit on the couch after getting drunk. I get drunk one night then sit at the kitchen table and do not fall asleep. Boom: free will. I call this argument the argument from slippery slope. It illustrates that even though a certain course of events is most natural the introduction of a decision can derail the natural course of causation.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Despite the fact that I am no longer a Christian I enjoy reading C. S. Lewis's nonfiction works.  One of them--Miracles--was over my head.  (Incidentally, I think it's a good Idea to read at least one book that's over your head per year.)  I don't recall much about it, but I remember him saying that our contact with God is like a man being warmed by a fire and not like a wire with electricity running through it, that we weren't so much conduits of the divine as we were warmed at a distance.  I don't recall his justification of this, but it was an interesting compare and contrast.

His book, The Problem of Pain, is much better though.  Lewis says in it that he abhors the notion of hell, but that he believes in it because its existence was taught by Jesus.  He adds the famous caveat that the door to hell is locked from the inside--that the damned souls can get out any time they like. This is a totally absurd notion given what the Bible teaches.  William Lane Craig says that since damned souls continue sinning in Hell that their eternal torment is justified.  This also is ridiculous since the damned soul--according to the Bible--is given the sentence of eternal torment by God.  This means that a finite amount of sins somehow justify infinite punishment.  The Catholic Church has gone so far as to invoke the Butterfly Effect, but the Butterfly Effect is an act of God, and we can't be held culpable for it.  I might wave my hand in Mexico and cause a hurricane in Indonesia, but waving my hand is not immoral.  That's not a good example, but you get the idea.  And yes, the Butterfly Effect is confirmed science.

All that talk of hell is ridiculous, but I digress.  I think most readers do not read enough outside their comfort zones.  I'm reading A History of God now, by Karen Armstrong.  It's full of things I did not previously know.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Contemporary Poetry

The only poet I can think of who is worse than James Franco ( is either Seth Abramson or Kenneth Goldsmith.  Poetry has finally devolved to the depths of Picasso, aka "The Great Flattener."  Many poets are meanwhile trying to be Salvador Dali or M.C. Esher.  Unfortunately, there is little room for originality in poetry today.  Each journal has a house style they adhere to.  Poetry has painted itself into a corner.  In my new essay, which will be published in Eclectica in October (probably toward the end of October), I say that poetry must become more philosophical.  But I can't say more than that now.

If poets want to flatten poetry down to journalism, to make the same mess Picasso made of painting, I guess they'll have their way.  But I have a question: Is Shia Labeouf the only genius who can wear a paper bag over his head?  See, Seth Abramson brags about "introducing Shia Labeouf to Metamodernism."  But most Metamodern poetry I've read is rooted in superficiality and sub-informationalism.  The rest of us poets who don't believe in house style must carry on, lest the intelligent morons take over the ship completely.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Free Will: The Essay

There has always been a keen interest in free will, but since the publication of Sam Harris’s book Free Will that interest has intensified.  Many determinists have come to stand by determinism as ardently as religionists stand by religion.  The implications of this stance are obvious.  If a person has no free will then punishment is rendered inhumane and one’s sense of self is reduced to that of a robot.

But a careful examination of the facts produces a great deal of hope.  Free will may be defined as the ability to freely make what appears to be the best choice, but it may also be defined as the ability to define what one means by quality.  In the former sense the word for free will may be “independence.”  In the latter, free will is simply called “freedom of definition.”

Independence falls on a continuum.  I am more independent than I was at the age of five, and I was more independent at the age of five than I was as an infant, when everything was chosen for me.  It is helpful to note that I was making choices that I was convinced were the best choices before I had fully defined what I consider to be quality.

Though the process of defining what qualifies as quality is an ongoing process for much of life, it narrows to a much smaller range the older one gets.  By the time a person is in his early thirties one knows what he likes and dislikes even if the justification for liking and disliking things is not thoroughly articulated.  The process of changing what one considers to be quality is also ongoing, but the older one gets the more focused the picture of preference becomes.  However, it is possible to acquire different tastes even if one is advanced in years.  If I immerse myself in classical music I may start listening to classical music instead of rock and roll.  I may come to prefer it to all other types of music.

With respect to my actions, if I am offered five choices I am always apt to pick the option that seems best.  However, that choice may be acted on at my own pace, for my own reasons, and by my own insight.  In this sense free will is limited to what I consider quality to be.

However, in the realm of thinking quality is not easily determined.  As with the external choices there may not be an absolute favorite way of imagining or thinking of something.  The way in which I evaluate something may be subject to all kinds of different cognitions, none of which is favored above any other.  The fact that I have a coherent inner monologue means I am choosing my words just before I think them.  This production of sense may differ from person to person.

But perhaps the most damning evidence against determinism lies in the fact that I can choose how to alter my brain states by eating, drinking, doing drugs, going to a concert, etc.  So even if my brain states determine my mode of thinking, I can pre-determine my brain states.  This may be done to infinitesimal degrees.  I can go to a concert and only partly pay attention to the music.

The course of a person’s life is not a matter of a ball traveling down a trajectory.  It is a matter of a man walking down a road.  He can turn right or left at any time.  The laws of physics do not determine my every move they only determine my limitations.