More on compatibilism coming soon

Thanks to all those who provided excellent comments (and sent private emails) in response to my request for help in understanding the compatibilistic view of free will. I have been reading them carefully and trying to digest them and will be posting a follow-up soon.

It is clear that this is a topic that is fraught with conceptual and linguistic pitfalls. It is easy to slip into dualistic phrasings that obscure the issues. On the other hand, trying to completely avoid them can result in ponderous and legalistic language that is less than transparent.

I can see that I am going to have to word things very carefully!


  1. MNb says

    Even though Richard Feynman once said “We can’t define anything precisely.” I think it important to make an attempt. Only then you can hope to avoid “It is easy to slip into dualistic phrasings.” Also realize that psychology – that other branch of science that studies the mind (and like I wrote before I use this in a thoroughly materialistic meaning) – is materialistic. Don’t look further than Wikipedia:

    “Psychology is an academic and applied discipline that involves the scientific study of mental functions and behaviors”
    “Mental process or mental function are terms often used interchangeably for all the things that we can do with our mind.”

    All research involved with this only uses materialistic means.
    But if you feel that the term “mind” has been polluted by centuries of theological and philosophical pollution you might prefer “psyche”.
    Then the question becomes: what does or can “free will” mean within this context and within the context of neurobiological research? Imo we can’t be sure yet, but as science uses both empirical data and testable hypotheses to get at a coherent theory, while philosophy and theology only use speculation, no matter how rational they might be, my bet as always is on science. And I dó respect philosophy a lot.

  2. says

    If you haven’t read it before, you might enjoy Mark Twain’s “What is Man?” (The answer is that man is a machine, and all that that implies). Not too shabby for 1906.

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