What is Freedom?

liberty

Most people have some intuitive notion of what freedom is. When I’m at work and have an obligation to dispatch my duties, I am not free, because I’m obligated to do one thing at the expense of any other things I might want to do – take a nap, watch a movie, read a book, etc. During my free time, though, I have the freedom to make those decisions if I wish. Someone in prison is not free because they are not allowed to go where they want; those of us not in prison have the freedom to go where we please. But are these intuitive notions of freedom a good definition for being free?

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A War Between The United States and Russia?

Putin Russia nuclear explosion

With Russia and Ukraine embroiled in a war that has caught the world’s attention, would it be a good idea for the United States to get involved to help Ukraine? A lot of talking heads seem to think so, hoping for anywhere between arming the Ukrainians to declaring a no fly zone and even up to boots-on-the-ground military involvement. Are these the wise words of our foreign policy intelligentsia or the saber rattling of demagogues and warmongers?

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Unsolvable Problems: Hyperobjects and Cognitive Closure

Kardashev scale

Possibly the guiding principle of modernity is that any problem can be solved if people just put their minds to it. Science and liberalism have been astonishing successes in raising the standard of living, in an objective sense, for more people than at any other time in history. People like Steven Pinker love to wax optimistic about how Enlightenment values and scientific progress have made the world an objectively better place to live than ever before, with the implication that things will only get better. But is this really true?

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Russia and Ukraine: Idealism vs. Realpolitik

putin ukraine

As most of you are probably aware, there has been mounting tension between Russia, Ukraine, the the west (the United States and much of Europe) that has, as of writing this, resulted in Russia invading the Donbas in eastern Ukraine. I call it an invasion, rather than the propaganda term “peacekeeping” because an invasion is what it is. But it’s a fraught situation with many competing interests.

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Abortion: Good or Bad?

abortion procedure

In the United States, abortion is one of the most contentious political and moral issues. The split is between the pro-life movement, which wants to restrict and even outlaw abortion as much as possible, and the pro-choice movement, which views abortion is a rights issue, both human rights and women’s rights, to maintain control over their own body and destiny. Yet sometimes it seems like the two sides are arguing past each other. Do either have a good case to make?

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What is a Scientific Theory?

scientific theory in science

Scientists and science enthusiasts can get exasperated by the conflation of definitions between the scientific conception of a theory and the colloquial definition. In the latter, a theory is sometimes considered no better than a guess, and at best what a scientist would call a hypothesis (an educated formulation of a mechanism or explanation). People will say things like “evolution is just a theory” as if that attests to some shortcoming of evolution. In the scientific conception, a theory is the gold standard. It is a set of inferences, explanations, predictions, and interpretations that bring together (sometimes disparate) data, evidence, and observations into a cohesive whole. Theories are what scientists use to make predictions in order to formulate new hypotheses and design new experiments. But what is the nature of a theory? And what is the ontological status of a scientific theory? In what way is a theory true?

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The Doomer, the Incel, the Shitpost, and our Schizoid Society

schizoid personality disorder

Picture your stereotypical incel, doomer, or shitpost internet commenter. This is probably a youngish white male who is a quiet, awkward nerd in real life. Maybe he dons a neckbeard and wiles away his time playing video games and listening to black metal. When deigning to interact with fellow human beings offline, he only manages to contribute the occasional cynical edgelord quip to the conversation only to bask in the discomfort he’s caused. Online this person becomes a know-it-all on reddit and comment sections, interjecting with snarky non-sequiturs and unsolicited contrarianism in order to cultivate a self-identity as some brand of “agent of chaos.” He declares his atheism and libertarianism at every opportunity all the while belittling others for their own sincerely held beliefs. Yet, these charming underachievers are baffled by their inevitable dearth of friends and potential romantic partners.

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God Does Not Exist: Scientific Arguments

science and god

A few years ago I made a lengthy post on the philosophical arguments against the existence of God. I stated that it was the first in a series. This one is the second in that series. Here I will go through the scientific arguments for why I do not believe in the existence of God. Just like with my philosophical arguments, this will end up being a fairly long post and one which I will revise and add to periodically. As such, what you see may not be the final version of this post.

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Trust the Science?

trust the science

A common refrain in the news media during these COVID years has been to “trust the science.” This is also a popular mantra when it comes to climate science. Yet, in the United States at least, trust in experts and institutions is at an all time low. The political right is skeptical of climate science, COVID vaccines, and scientific institutions like the NIH and CDC, seeing them as a means for the government to take away rights and for liberals to impose their will. The political left views science as a white colonialist means of subjugating those with other “ways of knowing” and upholding white, male privilege. So the question is: should we trust the science?

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The Illiberal Woke Left vs The Illiberal Integralist Right

disunited states secession

I have spoken on this blog numerous times about both the illiberal woke left and the illiberal integralist right. Both sides critique liberalism (used in the classical sense, not in the sense of the U.S. left). Some of these critiques are valid. Indeed, I am not above critiquing liberalism. My position, however, is that although liberalism is not good, it is the least bad of the available options. Now, though, the illiberal right is becoming the friend of the center left in the enemy of my enemy sort of way.

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Alternatives to Liberalism?

political compass

A number of conservative thinkers are coming to the conclusion that liberalism, in the classical sense (the way it will be used hereafter), ought to be jettisoned. Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen published Why Liberalism Failed in 2018 where he argued that liberalism is an ideology in the same sense that fascism or communism are. It is not the natural order of things of which human history has been blundering about for millennia in its quest to achieve. What is happening in the world today is not in spite of liberalism, but a result of it.

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The Case for Pessimism

philosophical pessimism

I have made no secret about the fact that I am a philosophical pessimist. Hell, my blog, the one you are reading right now, is called the cynical philosopher. My general disposition is one of nihilism and general misanthropy. This grim view of things is often considered one for the weak. For those who can’t hack it and have given up. I couldn’t agree more with this assessment. But I think there is a case to be made that giving up is a sensible position to take.

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Woke Science: a Toxic Marriage of Activism and Science?

science transgender medicalization

In science, objectivity is the greatest virtue. In an ideal world, a scientist would be impartial, disinterested in the outcomes, never desiring one result over another. They would run the experiment, gather the data, and report the findings, even if the data showed something that refuted the scientists’ hypothesis or gave an uninteresting negative result. Experiments would be replicated by multiple different people to more rigorously determine the veracity of the results. Negative results would get published as often as positive results. Topics for study would be determined by a mixture of intellectual curiosity and potential for improving society in some measurable way. Science, to say the least, does not live up to this ideal. But is science redeemable?

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Is the Human Brain a Computer?

brain computer

The popular, even ubiquitous metaphor used in cognitive neuroscience is that the brain can be likened to a computer. The similarities seem obvious: neuronal activity is binary (a neuron is either depolarized (ON) during an action potential or polarized (OFF) when inactive); our vision and hearing has many aesthetic similarities to a computer display (indeed, the monitor is made exactly to fit the human experience of colors, shapes, etc.); humans process information (we can sit down and think through a math problem, for instance). So on and so forth. But is the “brains are computers” metaphor accurate? And if not, then is adherence to this metaphor slowing down progress in neuroscience?

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