Determinist Existentialism

Modern day Sisyphus
“Good thing I have existentialism to help me out with this.”

Compatibilism vs. incompatibilism

If existentialism means anything, it means believing in freedom. Jean-Paul Sartre, probably the most well-known existentialist, argued that, in all situations, we are free to choose between options. In fact, though existentialism is a diverse and complex school of thought, it boils down to the following two claims:

  • Radical freedom: we are always free to choose how to act.
  • Radical responsibility: we are personally responsible for our entire experience of life.

This should sound utterly incompatible with determinism: the view that causality is an exclusively physical phenomenon. If all causality reduces to the interactions of physical matter and forces, what room is left for personal choice? This isn’t even a question about whether physical states of affairs fully determine how everything will turn out (“hard determinism”). Even if some level of probability or even randomness enters the picture, so long as it all happens in the realm of the physical, then, whichever way it happens to work, it’s still not up to us.

Or, to put it more precisely: even though some of it is up to us, how we choose to influence what is up to us is not up to us. We obviously do choose. But how we choose is only the manifestation of physical causation doing its thing. As Schopenhauer put it: “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.”

Most philosophers are “compatibilists”: they think we can square “metaphysical libertarianism” (the view that metaphysical free will exists) with determinism.…

Continue Reading →

These 4 Hidden Truths About Titles Will Make You Rethink Titles in 30 Days!

Some titles I love:

What do these titles have in common? They tell you absolutely nothing about the work. Some of them are even a little misleading. There Will Be Blood? I mean, okay, there does end up being some blood in the movie. But it’s hardly a bloody film.

Nonetheless, it’s an awesome title. A few reasons:

1. There is a thick, dark liquid that is essential to (modern) life present throughout the film: oil. The title creatively associates the substance circulating through human veins with that underneath the Earth’s surface. As with humans and blood, the Earth spills oil when punctured. In both cases, it is usually a tragedy and often mixed up with violence.

I could make more oil/blood associations – the point is that it only occurs to me to do so because of the film’s title.

2. Exodus 7:19:

Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.”

This is the first of the ten plagues, sent upon the Egyptians for worshipping a false idol.…

Continue Reading →

Victory Lap

 

Day 30, bitches!

Excuse me. I’m excited.

As I mentioned in this pathetic post, I’ve been doing a month-long write-a-blog-post-everyday challenge. Today is day 30. For the past 30 days, including today, I’ve written a blog post every single day. No exceptions. Don’t mind if I take this last post to celebrate and jot down some observations.

I began this challenge without a clear idea of what I should be writing about. In part, I hoped the challenge would help me pin down what topics I’m most interested in writing about. On day three of the challenge, I began a concurrent 30-day yoga challenge. Today is my day 28 of yoga. I’ve never done any kind of 30-day challenge before, so doing both at the same time has led them to feel associated in my mind. April has been the blog-yoga month.

A few observations:

  • Posts went up before midnight of every day.
  • Every post was posted here except day 13, which was posted at Pressing the Button.
  • Average post length: 871 words (not including today’s post. Counting today’s post would involve self-reference, and we all know that’s not allowed, this sentence notwithstanding). The longest post (1817 words) was my recent post about the Sorites paradox. The shortest (361 words) was this throwaway chronicling a train of thought sparked by a cool bass line. 8 posts were over 1000 words long; 5 were under 500 words.
  • I wrote 4 posts about solutions to the Liar paradox. Three of those were about problems with one particular proposed solution to it.

Continue Reading →