In response to my request for good subway reading Robin loaned me his copy of A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will by Robert Kane. The book begins with a bang! Chapter One, "The Free Will Problem", provoked a plethora of scribbled notes-to-self, including:
Alas, soon after the first chapter Free Will began to lose me. Maybe my mind's too feeble to follow the modern philosophical debate — or maybe there's less there than meets the eye. As I read onward, the feeling kept arising that a lot of this was only "Argument by Italics" — quibbling over terms, too much typographic emphasis of certain phrases, as if pointing a microscope at commonplace uses of particular words in everyday speech could somehow reveal deep truths. Yes, it happens on almost every page, and after a while it's almost funny. (I do it too, but I don't take it seriously as a foundation for discovery!) I also constantly got the feeling that I was being subjected to "Intuition Pumps", Dan Dennett's delightful term for a deceptively posed thought experiment.
Not to say that Free Will is a bad book; Kane writes well, and the problem is a crucial one. Perhaps some day I'll try studying it again when I'm in a different mood. And the big secret of the entire enterprise is hinted at on page 3, as a mere aside, when Kane says, "... having free will is about being your own person." Maybe that's the best summary of this whole knotty issue!
(cf. BlameStorming (1999-05-15), Mean Meaners (1999-07-03), Many Worlds Demystified (1999-10-24), Free Action (2000-04-03), Most Important (2002-05-16), Freedom Evolves (2003-07-03), No Dogs or Philosophers Allowed (2003-10-13), Strange Loops (2007-10-06), ...) - ^z - 2008-06-15
(correlates: 1 Comment on Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, FreeAction, The Meaning of Life, ...)