November 07, 2005


So I have that George Michael song "Freedom 90" in my head, and I have for two or three weeks. Hell, I arranged it for the mandolin and learned the bassline and downloaded the video. Come, you know you like that song, regardless of whether or not you are a reasonable George Michael fan like I am. (Reasonable fan: like the music and think he's a cool being, but I have no posters of the Faith era look, regardless of the fact that I totally wore a cross earring like that in the early 90s because I've always thought he was an awesome guy.) Our philosophy conference was this weekend, and it was a big success. That seems like it's par for the course these days. Carbondalies throw a kick-ass conference. And myriad thanks go to the dudes and dudets who made it happen. Anyway, there was a paper Saturday morning (and I confess to being groggy, foggy and froggy that day) wherein the presenter argued for a notion of moral responsibility without the necessity for free will. There's all this "science" and all these "statistics" that point away from free will. She said that Buddhists don't require it. Etc. Maybe I'm too much of a Sartrean, Jamesian, or maybe my Catholic upbringing in a Catholic city is something I can't get over. But the whole idea that anyone would believe that we don't have free will was completely abhorrent to me. When I see closed-minded people, fundamentalists, evangelicals and moral dinosaurs (yeah, I said it) get all upset and indignant at the idea of gay marriage, inter-racial couples and religious pluralism, I always look down my nose at them. "I'm more enlightened than that," I tell myself. "I would never have a gut reaction to something that is entirely alien to me and say that it's wrong right away and that I am right and that the perpetrator is evil. Not me." But I did it. I had a gut reaction. I got really upset inside. Turns out that I didn't have the intellectual bravery that I thought comes with being a philosopher. For at least a few minutes (or hours) Saturday, I was as bad as the hags that protest gay rights and who protested racial equality decades ago. I was talking to a colleague after a guest lecture Thursday about not being able to turn off being of a philosophical mind-bent. I think it can be a sickness at times, and the inability to turn off the hyper-critical world-view leads to nothing but unhappiness or discomfort very very often. I can't help but approach most things critically, whether it's finding ten things wrong with a particular pencil or feeling nauseous when I see obese mothers buying their already obese 8 year olds $6 coffee ice-creams from Gloria Jeans. These are not sources of pleasure at all. But I turned it off Saturday and thought just like a moronic, unreflective ape of a person who gets upset because someone disagrees with him and is ready to piss his pants. I was told not to feel badly, that "everyone" does that. But that's the worst excuse I have ever heard for doing anything. I was going to blog about free will, and I might work on an essay on it just to make myself feel better. But not here, and not now.


Lorianne said...

Wow...I would have never in a million years pegged you as a George Michael fan...but maybe that's because I (unlike you) am old enough to remember "Wham!"

Pragmatik said...

I remember Wham a little; I think GM makes up for it later, though:)

Alcarwen said...

there's a running argument here at the university about free will... especially in a certain class i have which has me (um, updated catholic? cafeteria catholic? candice-ist catholic?), an evangelical christian who believes in predestination, a self proclaimed free-spirit atheist, a jewish girl and a nun. now. the class is on the bible and literature. we spend most of it arguing religious differences with the nun (our professor) sitting in the front with this terribly amused expression on her face.

obviously, i, too, have the gut reaction of disgust when anyone suggests i have no free will. from an individualist standpoint, damn right I have free will. Hello?! then the catholic upbringing comes in: a divine power *gave* it to me. i have been pondering this one for awhile (and now i'm going to spawn a blog post about it probably now that you made me think about it again).... does it matter if we "really" are making a decision or if we are part of some larger scheme?

i like to look at it this way (only b/c i'm a Libra and I live for compromises that don't actually work but sometimes sound good)... you may have some sort of karmic connection with places, people, events, whatever... so say you're destined or fated or whatever to come into contact with them. that takes away an element of free will, doesn't it? but how we live our lives... the small details, how we evetually get around to hitting all the bases is part of free will too. so that way, we have it and we don't. perhaps we have preordained touchstones?

or maybe it's just a choose your own adventure book:) did you ever read those when you were a kid? :) someone needs to write them for adults. philosophical and literary choose your own adventure books.