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Philosophy for Real Life: Monday Discussion Group

Since the debate about free will continues to be of interest, the readings for this meeting continue the topic.  Participants have posted a number of short essays on the message board, so please read as many of them as you can.

Main reading: "Brains, Choices and Free Will,"

Additional readings, all on the message board, Or click Discussions, then Message Board, then Philosophy for Real Life Monday night group.

  • What is your inside view of free will? - several authors
  • FREE WILL, ETHICS, AND NATURAL LAW, Parts I and II - James I Davis
  • What's lurking beyond the causal veil - Gene Reshanov
  • Determinism's perspective - Guy Johnson

This group typically reads a short article, often a blog post by Bill Meacham, ahead of time and discusses it at the meeting. We approach philosophy as free human beings engaged in the world. The discussion format is free-form, and it is always quite lively.

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  • a.m.

    Here is a link to a lecture/book signing

    The Dean's Scholars Distinguished Lecture Series is proud to present renowned theoretical physicist and science popularizer Dr. Lawrence Krauss in a free public talk.

    Join us as he explains how close physics has come to answering some of the universe's most fundamental questions, and even ask some questions of your own! Following his talk will be a Q&A session and a book signing.

    Dr. Krauss will be speaking about his newest book, "A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing." In it, he explains how the staggeringly beautiful observations and predictions of modern physics suggest that not only CAN something arise from nothing, something WILL always arise from nothing.

    1 · March 28, 2013

    • Kim

      I'm planning on being there but wonder how crowded it's going to be.

      March 28, 2013

  • James I D.

    A limerick attributed to Monsignor Ronald Knox encapsulates Berkeley’s theory:
    “There was a young man who said, ‘God
    Must think it exceedingly odd
    If He finds that this tree
    Continues to be
    When there’s no one about in the Quad.’
    Dear Sir:
    Your astonishment’s odd:
    I am always about in the Quad.
    And that’s why the tree
    Will continue to be,
    Since observed by
    Yours faithfully,
    Berkeley denied any possibility of ultimate knowledge of an external world. Everything we know derives from a collection of senses, and we attribute those senses to the thing observed; however, the concept of the thing observed adds nothing new to the qualities observed. The only difference between a perceived and an unperceived event is that we remember one and not the other. But remembrance is a mental phenomenon, not a property of an external physical object, so we can only say that perceptions are associated with specific objects. His philosophy leads nowhere but it is not easily refuted!

    2 · March 26, 2013

    • Guy J

      Thanks for the post, Jim! This kind of use of the "God's eye view" is very much in line with the point I last made in the meeting. It's not a view any of us can enjoy, but we can readily synthesize that view in our imaginations. Such synthesis is much in line with our designed function as complex-thinking animals in the natural world.

      The "tree falls in a forest" idea is very often skimmed, I think having taken on new life since the discovery of quantum collapse at observation and the like. My own opinion is that it's only mystical or intriguing when not considered in adequate depth, a depth not too difficult to reach but usually avoided for lack of interest.

      I think this quandary would be a fun one-timer to discuss and get out of our systems sometime in the near future.

      March 27, 2013

    • James I D.

      Berkeley’s idealism is similar to Platonism, i.e. existence requires perception in a mind; so, in order for everything in the infinite universe to exist, only an infinite omnipresent mind, namely, the mind of God could possibly perceive everything, everywhere, for all time. Leibniz offered a variation: The world of things is contingent upon a Cosmic Logic. In both cases, they conclude that the only being with such cosmic characteristic is God, the only non-contingent being.
      Your right, Guy, one interpretation of quantum theory offers modest support for these ideas. Quantum particles exist, but they do not have definite properties until they are “observed” and then they achieve a definite state of existence. Although Berkeley expressed no specific believe about an atomic world, Leibniz championed such a world. Berkeley was concerned with macroscopic objects, so his rejection of reality is far more profound than that offered by quantum theorist Niels Bohr.

      March 27, 2013

  • a.m.

    I think I'm starting to get the gist of quantum mechanics! Thanks to everyone for an interesting discussion, even if we had to rehash defining "consciousness" :).

    March 26, 2013

  • James I D.

    Good to see you

    March 26, 2013

  • Michelle S.

    Not this time; Sometimes I wish someone had the answer, as long as it's the one I'm looking for!

    March 25, 2013

  • Marty S.

    Carl Ehlert - guest

    March 25, 2013

  • Michelle S.

    I hope I can keep up with you all! I'm diving into the readings now. Have this is my first meeting of this group.

    March 21, 2013

  • Gene R.

    Regrettably, I'll be out of town. In case you guys successfully put to rest this  free will conundrum, do let me know your solution!

    March 20, 2013

    • Bill M.

      Of course. It is written. :-)

      March 20, 2013

  • James I D.

    See you

    March 19, 2013

  • Bill M.

    It is great that we are having so much online discussion in addition to the meeting. Please post your papers and comments on the Discussion board. Click Discussions on the menu near the top of the page, then Message Board, then Philosophy for Real Life Monday Night Group. When you are in there, click Start A New Discussion. I hope to see you next time.

    March 11, 2013

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