Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Evil, & Free Will

As anticipated, there were lots of interesting conversations in class today. No new insights on the problem of evil, and surprisingly little evident reaction to the Simon Blackburn analogy I like to relate when first introducing this topic to undergrads: suppose, Blackburn proposes, you live in a dorm that's falling apart, where the food is awful (people sometimes die from it), and where the "management" (though rumored to exist) never actually appears. Would you infer from this state of affairs that the management nonetheless exists, is aware of your predicament, cares deeply about you, and possesses infinite resources for fixing things? No? Not even if one of your fellow students aggressively insists that she is privy to the mind and heart of the management, and can assure you that you are loved and cared for by management and that all is for the best in the dorm just as it is? No -- no more than you'd buy the claim that the "infirmities of Windows" ever persuaded anyone that Bill Gates is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent.

Interesting discussion this evening on free will and determinism, the latter being an example of a "weird" belief that my adult student found irrefutable, though unpopular. I remain unpersuaded, being a Jamesian on this issue ("my first act of free will shall be to believe in free will"). I recall the undergraduate demonstration of free will I was treated to many years ago, when my classmate destroyed a perfectly fine glass of beer by violently dashing it against his own cranium. "I'm free, Q.E.D." Nope, just crazy -- and, I came to realize as I got to know him, predictably crazy. This randomly weird demonstration was just the sort of thing he might have been expected to do, hence more a demonstration of determinism than anything else.

No comments:

KurzweilAI.net Accelerating Intelligence News