Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Traditio- Daniel C. Dennett

One question philosophy that even non-philosophers often find interesting is whether or not we have free will. This is not a new question, and in some ways we are stuck with some of the same reasoning given by Aristotle, the Stoics, and thinkers associated with the early modern era (Hume and Kant especially). However, with the emergence of the discipline of cognitive science and neuroscience, we have even more ways to investigate whether or not we have this sort of freedom.

Before getting to this weeks traditio, let me remind my readers of the three generally accepted versions of free will (broadly considered). Determinism is the view that the future is determined and that there is no free will (Baruch Spinoza and the Stoics accepted this view). Compatibilsm is the view that while determinism is true, humans do have control over there actions and thus have free will in spite of determinism (Hume, myself, and a majority philosophers fall in this category). Libertarianism (not to be confused with the political theory) is the view that determinism is false, the future is complete open, and that humans have full control over their actions (this view is espoused by Blake Ostler, Kant, and Richard Swinburne).

This weeks traditio features Daniel C. Dennett talking about this problem in light of modern cognitive science. Dennett is a philosopher, cognitive scientist, and professor at Tufts University where he is co-director for the Center of Cognitive Studies. He is the author of many books, including Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Consciousness Explained, and Elbow Room (where he talks about free will at length. Dennett is my favorite living philosopher, and in addition to being a great thinker, he is also a gentleman, as he is very kind in interviews with those who do not share his views and gives people their due when they make good points (as in his interviews with Dennis Prager and Bill Moyers, which can be found here and here).


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