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Yeah, calling you a creationist is unfair. You're more like intelligent design theorists. The true Darwinians of course are the metaskeptics (assuming there's more than one).

Coyne is being too generous. A theist could suppose that God was using his power to hide himself.

Holding a glob of cells "morally responsible" in a determined universe on the other hand is logically impossible. You just can't make sense of it. Four sided triangle.

Isn't the referent of 'free will' debatable? I find it curious that somehow the Stoics (who were physicalists, pantheists, and fatalists) weren't talking about free will yet a contemporary source compatibilist can be considered to be talking about free will -- even though they could have indistinguishable theories!

Michael Frede argued that the concept of 'free will' developed much later, and certainly he knew more about the history of the concept than I do. But the argument hinges on the connection between the concept and the will, which was not developed until much later. But again this is not how contemporary free will scholars use the term since we generally admit, as van Inwagen did, that free will has nothing to do with the will.

Hi Eddie,

So, it's creationism now?
In the past, the accusation was that compatibilism resembled sophisticated theology. I wonder what will be next? Omphalism, perhaps, as a particularly funny version of Creationism?

As a compatibilist excluded from Coyne's blog right after I challenged some of his false claims in the thread I linked to above (on a particularly ironic false charge), I can relate.

I agree that his attitude towards his definition of "free will" is creationist-like: he does not seem to even assess the evidence against the claim that that's what people usually mean.
I would add that he's behaving like a creationist also when it comes to his claims about compatibilists. He has no good reason to believe a good number of them, and he dismisses any arguments and/or observations that should also convince him that they're false.

For example - and in addition to the claims you mention -, Coyne claims that compatibilists decided in advance that their goal is to show that there is free will - rather than to seek truth -, so compatibilists invent definitions of "free will" just to get the result they want (and that's just one of Coyne's unfounded and false claims in the page I linked to).

If anyone is Creationist-like, it's a libertarian, not a Creationist.

Eddy's post also touches on another issue: is free will more like "witches" or like "whales"? Do we say the term referred to something nonexistent? Or do we revise our understanding of the term to correct underlying errors?

Manuel provides an elaborate argument for why "free will" should be like whales, rather than witches. Shaun Nichols agrees with him, I think. I have yet to be convinced, but I should sit down and read BBB.

Joe - where do I find Frede's work on the history of the definition of free will?

What "time" is it? Clock time? Which GMT if that? Do you mean in an inertial frame? Which frame? Do you mean cosmological time of the universe? Do you mean some absolute time of the evolution of the universe? Do you mean some averaged relativized time of the evolution of the universe? Do you mean some duration of time of any of the above, some defined instant?

Does anyone really know what time it is? Maybe Coyne does.

Oops. I just banned myself from his blog didn't I? About time I did.

Michael Frede. A Free Will: Origins of the Notion in Ancient Thought, edited by A. A. Long with a foreword by David Sedley. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

I wasn’t very clear in my earlier post. Frede denies that Aristotle (c. 384 – 322 BCE) had the concept of ‘free will’ and claims it begins with Epictetus (A.D. c. 55 – 135 CE), who was a Stoic. But the Stoics I was talking about were much earlier: Zeno of Citium (c. 334 – 262 BCE), Cleanthes (c. 330 BC – 230 BCE), and Chrysippus (279-206 BCE). There are passages on Stoic free will, reporting arguments from the three philosophers I’ve noted, as well as a section from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, in the Pereboom anthology, for instance. I guess I'm not sure what audience we are dependent on when we ask questions like "what does 'free will' mean"? Is it a folks concept or a technical concept?

Perhaps if we all defined free will in terms of basic desert MR we could at least agree on the what is under debate. It ties the concept of FW to real-like practical concerns and it provides a neutral definition of FW which all parties can agree to.

Angra, what page? What link?

I think Coyne's blog is pretty well covered by some sharp compatibilists, especially "Vaal". So relax. I tried to add my 2 cents (my WordPress identity is noghostnomachine).


There was supposed to be a link there, where it reads "compatibilism resembled sophisticated theology". I'm not sure why it's not: I have a copy of the text and I did write the tags.
The page is:

Thanks for bringing that to my attention - I didn't realize the link wasn't there.

By the way, now that you mention it, Vaal replied to that thread too (after I was excluded), and (apart from other points), he defended some of my posts there. Still, I would have liked to reply to Coyne and to some other posters, but I wasn't allowed to. I posted a brief reply to him and one to darrelle on my blog ( ), but very few people read that.

Hi folks "Vaal" here.

Angra Mainyu: do I infer correctly that you are the same "Angra Mainyu" who goes way back to the glorious, golden era of the Internet Infidels?

If so, hi from "Prof," my screen-name on II (and also briefly on the freethought/rationalism site...which is gone now too I think). Vaal is my other, current onscreen name.

That's really too bad you seem to have been excluded from contributing to Coyne's site. Smart cookie's like you are always good to have in the conversations.

Gregg, interesting post, thanks.

I do get tired of the "you're acting like a theist" charge that atheists love to throw at one another. And I'm generally tired of posts that go to the purported motivation of the other side of the debate, almost invariably wrongly diagnosed.

Of the many causes of new atheist or secular arguments, two stick out to me. One is a sort of fall out of the tone of the New Atheism. I include my own tone there BTW. That is, while I think the NA arguments are there, robust and sound, one of main thrust of NA has been making it ok to ridicule religion. This has been much needed for all the good reasons people like Harris etc make for it. And religion seems so damned easy to mock. The problem I notice is that this mode of discourse has bled into...well...almost everything. It was so easy and fun...and it always feels so "yummy" to mock something you think is daft...that this attitude seems now aimed at everyone. Don't just show how the idea is wrong, mock the idea, mock anyone who'd ever believe it - anyone not on board is basically an idiot. P.Z. Myer's site is probably the ultimate example of what happens when this mode of discourse is sprayed out at anyone with whom you disagree.
It creates easy in group/out group results, as we have seen.

The other issue - as it relates to the tendency to paint the other side with the brush of "Acting Like A Religious Person/Creationist!"- is that it seems, depressingly enough, not simply related to emotional thinking, or even superficial thinking. The impulse to impute to the other side emotional motivations also seems to be a natural result of just *reasoning* - just thinking through a subject.

If you've looked at an issue, and carefully led yourself step by step to a conclusion, whether you've done this while considering the counter arguments or not, the end result is a conclusion that you really "own." You are convinced you have reached the reasonable conclusion, and therefore it follows that someone reaching another conclusion can't be using reason. Because if they were, they'd have reached the conclusion YOU did. It then seems to naturally follow that since the other person isn't using reason, he has to have had something else motivating his conclusion. So now, let's go about diagnosing what *really* is being this person's conclusion. And then on to the diagnoses of emotional thinking, bias, dogmatism we go.

Once you have led yourself step by step through a process of reasoning to a conclusion, it can be incredibly hard to travel backwards on that path again and undo those steps. We will be more apt to spend our time defending the conclusion, vs re-challenging ourselves. Human nature and all that.

It is just the strangest damned thing to be on the page with other secular folks on an issue like religion, and then when it comes to another issue like free will, suddenly start seeing each other as irrational, or dogmatic, or just unreasoning. For me, looking at the side effects of reasoning, as above, helps make sense of these states of affairs. (Not ignoring the emotional/bias issues that of course do exist as well).

Anyway, I don't mean to take up too much comment space.


Thanks Angra and Vaal.

Hi Vaal,

Thanks, and yes, I'm the same "Angra Mainyu". ;) (btw, there is a sort of continuation of IIDB by the way, called "talkfreethought". It's changed considerably a lot time, but a few old posters remain).

Thanks Angra, will check it out.

(This reply didn't show up yesterday, so I'm trying again).

Angra, thanks. I believe I've briefly looked at talkfreethought, and I'll check it out again.


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