Dubious definitions of free will

Everyday Philosophy You hear a lot in apologetics about how if the materialist image of the world favoured by the likes of Richard Dawkins was true, there would be no room in reality for human free will. But why exactly is this? What’s the nature of the tension between free will and scientific materialism, and…

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Exploring questions rather than shutting them down

Everyday Philosophy In my first year of university, the study of philosophy was divided into three subtopics. There were lectures and classes in logic, ethics, and then ‘general philosophy’ which was supposed to include everything else. I showed up to my first lecture in the latter as a fresh-faced undergraduate eager for knowledge, and left…

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Unpicking popular phrases

Everyday Philosophy Popular aphorisms, proverbs and phrases sometimes pithily summarise good ideas. And sometimes, well, they don’t. The enemy of my enemy is my friend You might figure that ‘strong opposition to the government and general programme of Josef Stalin’, might seem to be a pretty good indicator of virtue and wisdom. Not, however, if…

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A question of bias

Everyday Philosophy We’re all biased. All of us believe things for bad reasons. We believe things because of wrong assumptions we never question, because of people we want to impress, because of patterns of thought that are evolutionarily useful but not apt for finding the truth. There’s no getting around our bias: the best we…

Misconceptions about freedom of speech

Everyday Philosophy I probably hear more people complaining about free speech in modern society than about any other social or political issue. No-platforming, cancel culture, campus censorship and various other associated phenomena: all are condemned as restrictions on free and open discourse, both by people who share my unpopular opinions and by those who don’t.…

Don’t dismiss scientism too easily

Everyday Philosophy If there’s one thing philosophers hate, it’s scientism. This is, roughly, the claim that ‘science can answer all the meaningful questions that there are to ask’ or ‘the scientific method is all you need to acquire all the knowledge about the world that there is to acquire’. Philosophers hate this for a predictable…

What does ‘peace’ really mean?

Everyday philosophy There’s a chant that people seeking radical change have used for decades: it was used in the black civil rights movement in the US in the 1960s, and we’ve heard it a lot from the protesters in the past weeks. The chant is: “No justice, no peace.” The statement being made by the…