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    To the free will discussion,

    “Compatibilists like Daniel Dennett have an elegant solution to the incompatibilists’ complaints about determinism (see Dennett’s Freedom Evolves): when incompatibilists complain that our freedom cannot be combined with the fact that all our acts are part of the great chain of natural determinism, they secretly make an unwarranted ontological assumption: first, they assume that we (the Self, the free agent) somehow stand OUTSIDE reality, and then go to complain how they feel oppressed by the notion that reality with its determinism controls them totally. This is what is wrong with the notion of us being “imprisoned” by the chains of the natural determinism: we thereby obfuscate the fact that we are PART OF reality, that the (possible, local) conflict between our “free” striving and external reality resisting to it is a conflict inherent to reality itself. That is to say, there is nothing “oppressive” or “constraining” about the fact that our innermost strivings are (pre)determined: when we feel thwarted in our freedom by the constraining pressure of external reality, there must be something in us, some desires, strivings, which are thus thwarted, and where should these strivings come if not from this same reality? Our “free will” does not in some mysterious way “disturb the natural course of things,” it is part and parcel of this course. For us to be “truly” and “radically” free, this would entail that there would be no positive content we would want to impose as our free act – if we want nothing “external” and particular/given to determine our behavior, then “this would involve being free of every part of ourselves”(Fearn 24). When a determinist claims that our free choice is “determined,” this does not mean that our free will is somehow constrained, that we are forced to act AGAINST our free will – what is “determined” is the very thing that we want to do “freely,” i.e., without being thwarted by external obstacles.” — Slavoj Žižek

    The question of what constitutes an act of free will is well worth fighting over. It has consequences for one’s psychology, intuitions, imagination, identity, and politics. There are feelings and assumptions that come with believing oneself and others are a passively observing the playing-out of physical events, or under an ever-present illusion, or always-able to overcome external forces hostile to one’s desires.


    The thing is, it seems to me Jason, that not many people I know, ever really think about ‘free will’. Bring it up and the conversation is usually quite brief, or of the humorous variety. Maybe there’s a brief engagement with the notion on a superficial level during private moments, but generally I think it’s mainly a philosopher’s concern. Perhaps there’s a kind of fatalism that exists, consciously, or even sub or unconsciously that hinders action of the sort you describe, but not sure if it hinges on thoughts about free will.

    Perhaps knowledge of impending death and the possible shortness of life has a greater impact on people’s psyche. Mix that with a popular kind of fatalism (“nothing I can do about it”), and feelings of impotence and apathy are almost guaranteed.

    avatarGary Childress

    Just FYI guys, whether we have free will or there is a determined future awaiting us is probably equally pointless to argue. We don’t know what that future is even if it is determined. We are doubtless going to do what we are going to do so maybe we should all be like Nike and “just do” what we are going to do and not worry if it will ultimately succeed or not. Probably all we really need to worry about is whether what we are doing is what we “ought” to do. I really wouldn’t worry about anything else.

    Marcus Denton

    Hey Mike, long time no talk. Hope you are well. Wondering if you (all) are heading to the US Social Forum in Philly. And also, if you know about these folks doing a workshop on building a participatory economy:


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