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Posts tagged "Free Will"

Happy Independence Day: You're Not Free

Happy Independence Day: You’re Not Free

When, in the course of human events, it become necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with one another…wait, that sounds familiar. Has someone said that before?

Those, of course, are the first words of the Declaration of Independence, the document that led to the American freedom from Great Britain that we’re celebrating this weekend. That freedom—and really, every freedom—is how we’ve come to define ourselves. We call ourselves “the land of the free,” don’t we? And we’re not alone. Every people longs to be free. From the Second Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church…

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Another Week Ends: Irrational Minds, Dangerous Parents, Anthony Weiner, Metallica References, Llama Drama, Post-Olympics Depression, and the Tastiest Fast Foods in America

Another Week Ends: Irrational Minds, Dangerous Parents, Anthony Weiner, Metallica References, Llama Drama, Post-Olympics Depression, and the Tastiest Fast Foods in America

1. This week The New York Times published an op-ed by Robert A. Burton entitled “A Life of Meaning (Reason Not Required)” which argues that most people would agree that (1) our lives ought to have a personal sense of “meaning” or “purpose” and (2) our lives should be “shaped by reason” or “rationality.” As concepts, however, reason and rationality get a little bit fuzzy when we consider the recent barrage of brain research evidencing the less-calculated “unfree” will of man. Burton explains:

“[T]he brain generates action-specific electrical activity nearly half a second before the subject consciously ‘decides’ to initiate action. Though interpretations…

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Chants of Paradise: Progress, Christianity, and The Soul of the Marionette

Chants of Paradise: Progress, Christianity, and The Soul of the Marionette

In the can’t-make-this-up department, someone commented on The Guardian’s review of John Gray’s The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom:

While science is the only game in town in deepening our understanding reality, obviously, philosophers and experts in history are also pretty handy to have around.

Here is a distorted picture of British philosopher/public intellectual John Gray’s ideal of the graceful (because un-self-conscious) marionette: someone likely careening this way and that through life, with no semblance of where he’s going or what it all means. This blindness is typical of triumphalism, and we live in triumphalistic times, times…

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"All This an Illusion": A Reflection on Determinism and Free Choice

“All This an Illusion”: A Reflection on Determinism and Free Choice

This humdinger comes from Jim McNeely:

I recently listened to episode 93 of the Partially Examined Life podcast (you can listen to it or read about it here). It is a fascinating listen; these are not rabid militant “New Atheism” people, just fun and thoughtful agnostic/atheists who love philosophy. I have found that it is where I go to get the current conversation “on the street” about important philosophical issues. In this particular episode they grapple with a problem that we have been looking at from a theological perspective for millennia — free will vs. predestination (in some ways similar to…

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Healthy Hearts, Smoldering Resentments, and the Starting Point of Compassion

Healthy Hearts, Smoldering Resentments, and the Starting Point of Compassion

Given the popularity of the section we posted from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice a few weeks ago on Competition in Marriage, here’s one that’s bound to be a little less popular… 😉 It can be found under the rather unsexy heading of “The Relation of the Un-Free Will to Compassion”–and yet it is one of the most important passages in the book, spelling out much of what lies behind this site’s focus on human limitation, i.e. its relation to love:

Perhaps the man you live with is smoldering with resentment. Most of his resentments are founded on half-facts and subjectivity….

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Another Week Ends: Delta Malaise, Self-Deprecating Obituaries, The Hill and Wood, Breaking Bad, Bound Atheists, Fall Conf Schedule and more Dark Knight Rises

Another Week Ends: Delta Malaise, Self-Deprecating Obituaries, The Hill and Wood, Breaking Bad, Bound Atheists, Fall Conf Schedule and more Dark Knight Rises

1. First up, The New York Times published an eye-opening article about sorority rush in US colleges this week that’s been spreading like wildfire. It visits all the usual themes of the Law of group belonging: self-doubt, attempts at identity improvement, the need to belong, and our single-minded attempts to live up to a certain standard – no matter how much or little positive correlation it has with Old Testament/church morality. To illustrate how far the phenomenon of belonging is going:

In the early rounds, [girls] have only minutes to make a positive impression… Many aspiring sisters spend their summer working…

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The Cross As Moral Striving?

The Cross As Moral Striving?

Bad PR dies hard. Somehow, the word got out that Christianity is about moral reform and our inner 2nd-grade, grumpy-pants teacher has been looking over our shoulders ever since. Despite the insistence of St. Paul, Luther, Calvin and a host of other Reformers, faithful laymen and preachers that we’re free in Christ, we’ve had a 2,000 year battle on our hands. Just think of the many bumper-sticker falsehoods floating around. You know, “Do your best, and God does the rest. “Just follow your heart”. Or America’s favorite (non) verse “God helps those who help themselves.” The sentiment is always the…

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I'm Just Like Pele... Except I'm Terrible at Soccer

I’m Just Like Pele… Except I’m Terrible at Soccer

Brian Phillips is a writer for Bill Simmons’ sports and pop-culture website Grantland.com. His writing is gorgeous. Last year, he wrote several articles about Roger Federer that include some of the most lyrical sports writing I’ve read in a long time. The other day, he wrote an article about Pele (likely the greatest soccer player of all time) on the occasion of Pele’s critical comments about Lionel Messi (likely the greatest soccer player playing today).

But then part of Pele’s post-career shtick is that any high praise given to another player in his presence is a boorish deviation from the continuous…

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Does Neuroscience Spell the End of Free Will? You Decide!

Does Neuroscience Spell the End of Free Will? You Decide!

An interesting devil’s advocate piece appeared in The NY Times recently, addressing the question “Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?” Here author and philosopher Eddy Nahmias argues that recent discoveries about brain function do not in fact equate to the death of free will, that they really only speak to our faulty operating definitions of the term, that free will is not an all-or-nothing faculty, and even if it were, the implications for consciousness (reduced to inner spectator) are too absurd to fathom.

His argument is not unconvincing, but it is also not anything new for those familiar with theological…

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Another Week Ends: Parental Blindspots, Damsel Reviews, Rand Abolishing Lewis, Doublethink, Higher Ground and The Magnificent Ambersons

Another Week Ends: Parental Blindspots, Damsel Reviews, Rand Abolishing Lewis, Doublethink, Higher Ground and The Magnificent Ambersons

1. A couple of regretful if relevant instances of control backfiring when it comes to children. The first was reported in The NY Times Motherlode blog:

“A newly released poll from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital finds that parents look at their children with blinders on, while looking at other children accusingly.”

If you read the comments, you’ll find a sad litany of parental judgment/overinvolvement shutting down the lines of communication with their children, which in turn feeds substance abuse. Not that parents can ever “get this right,” just that there appears to be a relationship between inflated views…

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Mockingbird at the Movies: Days of Thunder and "You're Out of Control!"

Mockingbird at the Movies: Days of Thunder and “You’re Out of Control!”

Days of Thunder is such a fun movie. For any who haven’t seen it, it’s Top Gun in race cars. Literally. Despite its therefore necessary fluff and Tom Cruise preening, Days of Thunder has at least one moment of true profundity. Here it is:

I would argue with Claire (Nicole Kidman) on one point: I don’t think that most people “automatically know” that they are basically unable to control anything about their lives. In fact, I think that the human impulse is to control every aspect of life, and we react very badly when control either slips away or is wrested…

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American Individualism and the Slow Death of Rational Choice Philosophy

American Individualism and the Slow Death of Rational Choice Philosophy

Maybe you saw John McCumber’s excellent look at The Failure of Rational Choice Philosophy in the Times’ Stone column a few weeks back. Don’t be put off by the academic tone – this is concrete stuff and very much worth your time, especially with July 4th approaching. McCumber traces that most precious tenet of American individualism, that we are free agents making rational choices, casting it as the national dogma that (still) shapes our economic and governmental realities – despite the myriad and increasingly self-evident philosophical misgivings about its validity. If it sounds like a chapter from The Social Animal,…

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