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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why the Free Will Debate Never Ends

By Julian Baggini
The Philosophers Magazine
Originally published October 13, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Smilansky is speculating about optimism and pessimism. But one study has come up with some empirical evidence that extraversion and introversion are correlated with beliefs about free will, concluding that “extraversion predicts, to a significant extent, those who have compatibilist versus incompatibilist intuitions.”

Many are appalled by this idea as it goes against the whole notion that philosophy is about arguments, not arguers. But you only need to read the biographies and autobiographies of great philosophers to see that their personalities are intimately tied up with their ideas. W V O Quine, for instance, recalled how as a toddler he sought the unfamiliar way home, which he interpreted as reflecting “the thrill of discovery in theoretical science: the reduction of the unfamiliar to the familiar.” Later, he was obsessed with crossing state lines and national borders, ticking each off on a list as he did so. Paul Feyerabend recalled how, not yet ten, he was enchanted by magic and mystery and wasn’t affected by “the many strange events that seemed to make up our world.” Only a philosopher with delusions of her subject's objectivity would be surprised to find out that Quine and Feyerabend went on to write very different kinds of philosophy: Quine’s in a formal, logical, systematising tradition (though typically on the limits of such formalisations); Feyerabend’s anti-reductive and anti-systematising. It would take a great deal of faith in the objectivity of philosophy and philosophers to think that Feyerabend and Quine arrived at their respective philosophical positions simply by following the arguments where they led, when their inclinations so obviously seem to be in tune with their settled conclusions.

The entire article is here.