When John, Neal, and Gustavo started the Garden of Forking Paths several years ago, they did so with the intention of fostering an on-going discussion of free will, moral responsibility, and the philosophy of action more generally. At various times throughout its history, the Garden has succeeded in its mission to a great extent. Unfortunately, things have become quite stagnant in the last year or so, and those of us who are concerned with seeing the Garden flourish are not quite sure why the frequency and quality of participation have floundered. Simultaneously, things have got quite busy for John, Neal, and me. In light of these two considerations, we've decided to close the Garden indefinitely. So for the foreseeable future, there will be no new posts, nor any new comments. Rest assured, while the blog is in hiatus, we will be busy trying to determine what things we can do to better ensure that the Garden succeeds in its mission. We'll probably be getting in touch with many of you to see if you have any input on how we can better operate the Garden. But until we have a clear picture of how the Garden can (1) maintain a vibrant community and (2) maintain a high level of philosophical rigor and sophistication, we will be taking a break. If (1) and (2) aren't sustainable, then we will close the Garden for good.
I realize that this is fairly drastic, but for those of you who are really concerned with the health of the blog, I think you'll understand. It is our view (i.e., the view of John, Neal, and me) that we would rather close the Garden than see it in its current state.I hope that no one is unduly put off by this decision (we're actually very appreciative of the help and support that everyone has offered over the past six years), but no one wants the Garden to succeed more than the three of us, and we are convinced that this is the best way to begin to move forward. I will leave the comments to this (and other threads) open for the next few days, and you can feel free to voice your opinions, offer suggestions, berate me, etc.
Many have wondered whether people believe in free will because of wishful thinking. Often, this is explained with respect to the present and future: if we don't have free will, then we are now like slaves, and are powerless to alter the course of our lives.
I wondered, though, whether wishful thinking might also explain beliefs about free will relative to the past. That is, people who are proud of their past will want to take ownership of it. They will want to believe that they exercised free will to create and fashion their past.
And, interestingly, people who are not proud of their lives will not want to take ownership of their lives. They will want to deny that they have free will. Instead, they'll view their lives as something thrust upon them - that they are passive passengers on an unfortunate ride.
If I may engage in (more) shameless self-promotion, I'd like to mention a book symposium on my collection, MY WAY: ESSAYS ON MORAL RESPONSIBILITY in the January 2010 issue of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Thank you so much to Calvin Normore, Randy Clarke, and Gideon Yaffe for wonderful, thoughtful, and generous critiques.
Also, thanks to everyone for leaving out the following thought, quoted from Sunday's NY Times article on the "My Way Killings":
“ ‘I did it my way’ — it’s so arrogant,” Mr. Albarracin said. “The lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you’re somebody when you’re really nobody. It covers up your failures. That’s why it leads to fights.”
I am the free will editor for philpapers. So far I have resisted using my powers for evil (say, deciding that compatibilism isn't a theory about free will at all). Instead, I have been conscientiously trying to categorize papers in ways that are useful. The category system isn't very fine-grained (it seems to me that the addition of the consequence argument as a subcategory of libertarianism is a crying need), but it is what we have at the moment. Now I need your help. As I have confessed elsewhere, I am pretty ignorant of the state of the debate prior to about 1970. Since earlier papers lack abstracts, and often take forever to get to the point (when they get there at all), this makes categorization of these papers rather difficult. That's where you, oh so cultured readers, come in. Either in comments here, or directly on the site, I would like your categorical input. To take a random example, who was Patrick Proctor Alexander and where does he go? If anyone prefers to avoid searching the site, I can put up lists of some of the (roughly 250) papers that need classification.
As part of the Templeton's free will grant, Florida State will begin hosting post-docs in free will beginning in Fall 2010. Obviously, this is of great interest to many Gardeners, and if you're interested in applying, see the JFP ad (copied below).
JFP Reference Number: 8662
Date Submitted: 02/03/2010
Ad Text: One year post-doctoral Fellowship, beginning Fall 2010. We are looking for philosophers with an AOS in free will. The Fellow is expected to teach four courses per year in the Philosophy Department. Salary: $40,000. Please send dossier (including letter of application, CV, writing sample, three letters of recommendation, and evidence of teaching effectiveness) to Post-doc Search Committee, Department of Philosophy, 641 University Way, P.O. Box 3061500, Florida State University, Tallahassee FL 32306-1500. Fax 850-644-3832. Applications must be received by April 1, 2010. Women and members of minority groups under-represented in academia are especially encouraged to apply. Florida State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer, committed to diversity in hiring, and a Public Records Agency. Inquiries to Piers Rawling, Chair, email@example.com, or 850-644-1483.
I have heard from good friends that this is an excellent opportunity, so I recommend applying. The deadline for applications is fast approaching, so if you're interested, get busy.
The course will take place in Budapest, Hungary between 5-13 July 2010.
Applications are accepted until 15 February 2010. Former participants
can also apply.
More information is available here: http://www.sun.ceu.hu/aspects.
I was reading this article this morning, and the following passage caught my attention:
"When Mr. Obama presents his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening, aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame, for failing to deliver swiftly on some of the changes he promised a year ago."
What is the distinction between "accepting responsibility" and "accepting blame" that White House aides are relying on here? Is this just political wordplay or can we make something substantive out of it?
Please join me in congratulating Al on receiving a very impressive grant from the John Templeton Foundation for the project: "Free Will: Human and Divine--Empirical and Philosophical Explorations." For more information on the project please see this website. This is very exciting for Al, as well as for future research on free will.