Culture & Literature
Philosophy Now

Philosophy Now Feb/Mar 2016

Philosophy Now is a magazine for everyone interested in ideas. It isn't afraid to tackle all the major questions of life, the universe and everything. It tries to corrupt innocent citizens by convincing them that philosophy can be exciting, worthwhile and comprehensible, and also to provide some light and enjoyable reading matter for those already ensnared by the muse, such as philosophy students and academics. It contains articles on all aspects of philosophy, plus book reviews, film reviews, news, cartoons, and the occasional short story.

United Kingdom
Anja Publications Ltd
Read More
$9.20(Incl. tax)
$33.75(Incl. tax)
6 Issues

in this issue

5 min.
feel free to differ

Welcome to our issue on free will. Did you choose to read this? I’m not asking out of mere politeness or astonishment; the question, Is conscious choice real? is right at the core of a tangle of philosophical problems around free will. If the answer is ‘yes’, you do choose, then your mind can decide what to think, and how you subsequently act, whether by speaking, or throwing a ball, or reading an editorial. That question is utterly different from the free will question that vexes theologians: Are we free if God already knows everything we’ll do? It is entirely consistent to say that we do choose, but God knows what we’re going to choose. That would mean we have free will in one core way – concerning choice –…

4 min.
news in brief

• University scraps philosophy exams • • Ethics teaching the Meiji way • • Canadians consider euthanasia for children • Euthanasia for Children? Passive euthanasia, withdrawing or withholding treatment with the effect of hastening a patient’s death, has long been legal in Canada. Active euthanasia, taking positive measures to bring about a patient’s death, will soon also be legal as per a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in February 2015. A new public debate has emerged in the wake of this step: Should the right to ask for one’s own life to be terminated to be extended to children too? It is not as strange a thought as it may seem: in the Netherlands euthanasia is lawful for patients over the age of 12, in Belgium for terminally ill children of any age…

6 min.
free will is an illusion, but freedom isn’t

We commonly think it obvious that a person facing multiple alternatives can choose any of them, and that the outcome is decided by free will at the moment of decision, rather than being already determined by earlier causes. All the events in the world, however, obey the law of physics, including those that happen inside a brain. If all events in the brain unfold according to classical physics, then free will in the above sense does not exist. This is because classical physics is deterministic: the state of the world at any moment is the inevitable consequence of its state at an earlier moment. Hence the alternatives are only apparently available to the decision-maker, as in fact only a single alternative is destined to be the one chosen. In quantum physics…

1 min.

Are choices freely made just as it seems Or do the atoms choose for us instead? Do people just respond or intervene? By choice illusions are we each misled? If now I choose to work instead of play Is that because that impulse is more strong? Else what decides which impulse will hold sway? Are we the movers or just moved along? And when decidedly I am resolved To take some course of action come what may Was I observing or was I involved In that decision in the proper way? Despite the doubts, I must believe I'm free Accepting that I am too near to see. © PETER DUFF 2016 Peter Duff is a solicitor with a small practice in Blackrock, County Dublin. For more, visit his daily poem site atdailypoem.net/index.php/about-daily-poem/.…

5 min.
the new argument about freedom

There has been a recent surge of interest in the old problem of free will. But away from time-worn debates over the questions ‘Are we free?’ and ‘Are we morally responsible?’ some fresh waters are at last in reach. As I will show, some progress can be made here by putting the age-old problem of determinism aside and by giving up the libertarian ghost. This will leave us open to asking new, clear and sensible questions in a debate that is surely close to everyone’s heart. Traditionally, conflicting positions on free will have diverged and defined themselves according to the question: ‘Are free will and moral responsibility compatible with determinism’? It does seem that we are free to act, if our choice is not the result of external coercion and reflects…

12 min.
the brain’s risk/reward system makes our choices, not us

“Recently I was trying to explain to an intelligent woman the problem of trying to understand how it is we perceive anything at all, and I was not having any success. She could not see why there was a problem. Finally in despair I asked her how she herself thought she saw the world. She replied that she probably had somewhere in her head something like a little television set. ‘So who,’ I asked ‘is looking at it?’ She now saw the problem immediately.” F.H. Crick, in Scientific American, 1979 The first question to be answered is: Who or what is running the show? In Part 1 I will attempt to explain human decision-making without the need for a hidden homunculus. Part 2 will then go on to look at how…