Episode 120: A History of “Will” with Guest Eva Brann (Part Two)


Continuing our dicussion of Un-Willing with the author. We explore and critique Eva’s picture of the less-willfull life and try to figure out how her historically driven account relates to modern debates about free will. Listen to part one first.

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Episode 120: A History of “Will” with Guest Eva Brann (Part One)


We discuss Un-Willing: An Inquiry into the Rise of Will’’s Power and an Attempt to Undo It (2014) with the author, covering Socrates, Augustine, Aquinas, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Sartre, compatibilism, the neurologists’ critque of free will, and more.

Become a PEL Citizen and get part 2 ad-free now, and be eligible for the 8/3 drawing to win Eva’s book.

Sponsored by St. John’s College Graduate Institute: partiallyexaminedlife.com/sjcgi. Visit pauldrybooks.com and enter “PEL” at check-out for 30% off your order & free U.S. shipping (or $25 max int’l).

Free Will Worth Having

What are your thoughts on machines that can predict what you’re going to do in the next five minutes? Do you think that everything that happens now in the universe was causally determined by some event(s) that happened before it? When professional philosophers check people’s intuitions it looks as though sometimes people generally agree that we […]

Wittgenstein on the ‘Illusion’ of Free Will


In Philosophical Investigations, section 174, Wittgenstein is discussing the temptation to describe the experience of acting with deliberation (in drawing a line parallel to another, say) as a “quite particular inner” experience. At this point in the text, he has been discussing reading in order to shed light on the concept of understanding, which he […]

Topic for #93: Free Will and Moral Responsibility (Strawson Father vs. Son)

Listen now to Tamler Sommers’s summary of the two Strawson articles. On 4/6, Mark, Wes, and Seth were joined by Tamler Sommers of the Very Bad Wizards podcast to discuss the following articles: 1. P.F. Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment” (1960) 2. Galen Strawson’s “The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility” (1994) 3. Gary Watson’s “Responsibility and the […]

The Architecture of Compatibilism (Are We REALLY free?)

In our discussion on Jung, I brought up the issue of free will with respect to the existence of the unconscious, and I wanted to explore this a bit further: Compatibilism is the doctrine that free will and determinism are in some way compatible, but since these terms were designed to contradict each other, any […]

“Very Bad Wizards” Podcast on Free Will

A point neglected in the moral discussion in our recent episode is free will. She-who-will-not-be-named (read her view here) on the one hand insists on the supremacy of empirical science but on the other hand insists that our freedom and hence moral responsibility is obvious and inescapable. So that should make her a compatibilist, but […]

Contemporary Neuroscience and Free Will

Contemporary neuroscience is not a challenge to free will, according to Eddy Nahmias: Most scientists who discuss free will say the story has an unhappy ending—that neuroscience shows free will to be an illusion. I call these scientists “willusionists.” … Willusionists say that neuroscience demonstrates that we are not the authors of our own stories […]

What to Do About Behaving Badly


This is an obvious cross-reference for this group—indeed, many of you likely already read it. Peter Singer and Agata Sagan have an column in NYTimes’ “The Stone” today called “Are We Ready for a Morality Pill?” They present the conundrum of the how to factor in our growing understanding of the effect of brain chemistry not […]

The Problem of Determining Free Will

Free will is always a sticky wicket. On the one hand, we make decisions every day that point to our having a say in what we do. Accountability, in general, relies on this notion. On the other hand, whatever our will is, it is clearly constrained: we can’t will away gravity. Free will is a […]

More Fun Debating Free Will (and Bashing Dan Dennett)

Pop science journalists / authors Bob Wright and John Horgan have an interesting debate on free will from a, well, pop science point of view. Nothing gets resolved, as always, but I like hearing well-informed middle-aged guys argue the same debate we’ve been hearing since the university dorm room. Highlights include Wright’s assessment of Daniel […]

David Eagleman and Daniel Dennett on Free Will and Neuroscience

Wes’s recent post on David Eagleman led to my listening to the Philosophy Bites episode interviewing him. Eagleman’s point here is that the criminal justice system assumes a model of free will that is unsustainable given what we know about neurology, and he gives examples like a normal guy with no apparent deviant impulses suddenly […]

Tripe, Part Six

Start at the beginning. We are now up to the sixth and sixth and a half sittings. Today’s excerpt puts the connection between tripe (the non-humor forming the bulk of this book) and self-consciousness in terms of our attitudes towards free will: The form and shape of the supposedly humorous is predictable, though the content […]

Episode 24: Spinoza on God and Metaphysics (Citizens Only)


Discussing Spinoza’s Ethics (1677), books 1 and 2. God is everything, therefore the world is God as apprehended through some particular attributes, namely insofar as one of his aspects is infinite space (extension, i.e. matter) and insofar as one of his aspects is mind (our minds being chunks or “modes” of the big God mind).

End song: “Spiritual Insect,” by Mark Lint and the Fake from So Whaddaya Think? (2000).