Author: Ben Burgis

In Defense of Compatibilism: A Response to Edwards and Coyne

I was excited to read William Edwards’s article “The Academic Quarrel Over Determinism.” As a philosophy professor, I teach my students about that quarrel every semester. As I read the article, however, I was disturbed by what was missing from Edwards’s account. Jerry Coyne’s rejoinder “Why We Shouldn’t Bet on Having Fee Will” only deepened my frustration. Edwards vs. Coyne William Edwards frames the quarrel as an argument between thinkers who believe in free will and those who believe we live in an entirely deterministic universe. He argues that it feels like we’re in control of our actions in a way that makes us morally responsible for those actions but that this feeling is “dismissed as an illusion by serious, contemporary neuroscientists.” Rather than bowing to the verdict of the neuroscientists, though, Edwards recommends that we see the question of whether free will exists as “the Pascal’s Wager of the twenty-first century.” There’s “too much about the universe that we don’t understand” for us to be confident that the neuroscientists are right, so it’s appropriate …

Marx Deserves Better Critics

The most shocking moment of the Žižek-Peterson debate occurred during the first five minutes. In Jordan Peterson’s opening statement, he mentioned that he’d re-read The Communist Manifesto in preparation for the debate. This, in itself, wasn’t especially surprising. One of many reasons the event was so hotly anticipated—as Dr. Peterson mentioned, Toronto scalpers were charging more for seats than they were charging for Maple Leafs tickets—was that one of the most important Marxist intellectuals in the world would be debating one of the fiercest critics of Marxism. So, one would expect Žižek’s opponent to brush up on some Marxist classics in preparation for their encounter. The shocking part came a few seconds later when the 56-year-old Peterson casually added that he hadn’t read the Manifesto since he was 18. Peterson has a deep and long-standing interest in totalitarianism. He’s filled his house with art from the Soviet Union in order to remind himself of the evils of that system. Oddly enough, something similar is true of his Marxist sparring partner. Žižek was a dissident Communist …