The Illusion of Coherence

May 11, 2009

by Gene Callahan

I just ran across the work of Professor Saul Smilansk, who is making a splash in ‘free will’ discussion circles. Professor Similansk apparently argues that:
1) Free will is an illusion; but
2) It is a necessary illusion in order to preserve social order, because
3) If people came to believe that they don’t have free will they would choose to act immorally; so
4) We should choose to maintain this illusion.

How does someone even manage to hold these various thoughts in their head at the same time?

7 Responses to “The Illusion of Coherence”

  1. MnM Says:

    I suppose he doesn’t see the inherent contradiction…

    Tripe like that is why I hated my philosophy courses.

  2. pochp Says:

    Bragging aside Jean, I can. And I’m still researching how I can.

  3. James Hasik Says:

    Deeply convoluted rubbish. The University of Haifa could demand that he spend his time—in return for his salary—doing something productive, but instead, it gets this.

  4. koppl Says:

    I’m not sure I see why it is so very obvious that the argument is mad. First, Gene, did he use the choice language you invoke in your brief summary? I sort of assume he did. Apparently, then, he views “choice” as some sort of neural event or process that influences overt action. Is it a complete non-starter that philosophical argument could not influence “choice” thusly understood?

    Does anyone on this thread feel confident he or she even knows what “free will” means? I’m pretty clueless on that one.

  5. Steve Says:

    Almost no one believes that we have free will in the complete, uncaused sense. Most people know that we are heavily influenced by our environment and genetics. I would like to see us move beyond the question of free will and examine the causes of human behavior and what we can do to influence that behavior.

  6. Bob Murphy Says:

    Well Gene, suppose he didn’t have a choice in advancing that argument. You are assuming he chose to say it, which begs the question. Free your mind, er, brain.


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