Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Determinism

Macklemore and Philosophy

I’ve been hearing the song “Same Love” by Macklemore for a while now. I agree with the song’s central message–that gay people should be afforded equal treatment by the state and in society. I also quite like the song, in no small part because unlike most songs, it’s very direct with the point it intends to make. The lyrics make clear arguments without hiding their messages in metaphors and other methods of obscurantism. There are entire websites devoted to helping music fans come to understand the veiled messages in their favorite artists’ songs, and it’s nice to not have to have inside knowledge to get the point being made. That said, it also illustrates one of this blog’s running themes–lay people lack expertise. While Macklemore makes a point I firmly agree with, the argument he uses to reach our shared conclusion is not very good.

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Quantum Mechanics and Free Will

As regular readers may know, I am a determinist. I believe that individual agents have no power or ability to self-determine their behavior, and that their behavior is caused by forces over which they have no power. It has been pointed out to me, however, that quantum mechanics calls into question the traditional scientific basis for determinism by arguing that the old classical laws of physics are limited in their power of prediction. Laplace’s demon, the imaginary being that uses infinite information and infinite computing capacity to calculate everything that has ever happened or will ever happen using the physical laws, is not considered viable under modern science. Does this mean anything for my determinism? That’s today’s topic.

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Man of Steel and Genetic Engineering

Earlier this week, I went to see Man of Steel, and wrote about the way I thought it ignored and marginalized interesting and controversial moral debates about whom we have moral duties to. Toward the end of that piece, I noted that I also had thoughts concerning genetic engineering, another issue the film briefly raises, then discards. Today I’d like to pursue that thread further. Having thought about it more, I’m now convinced that the film’s take of genetic engineering is even more knee-jerk and surface level than its attitude toward imperialism.

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A Critique of Ronald Dworkin

Lately I have often praised the work of Ronald Dworkin, writer of Justice for Hedgehogs, a book I have recently been reading. Indeed, Dworkin’s views on scepticism, interpretation, and the independence of value from metaphysics are all very persuasive, and I have adopted partially or completely several of his positions on those topics, as regular readers may have observed in recent posts. However, at around the halfway point in Hedgehogs, I have come upon a position of Dworkin’s I cannot accept which I believe undermines much of the rest of his philosophy.

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Are People Equal?

Since Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal”, we’ve pretty much taken equality as a given. The last couple hundred years of history could be viewed as one prolonged struggle for equality, whether taken from the perspective of colonists, racial, ethnic, or religious minorities, the working classes, women, and so on down the line. But how equal are we, really? And what, precisely, are we equal in? Too often we ignore these questions and resort to Jeffersonian platitudes. Not today.

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