Category Archives: General Philosophy

SMPT this Week

I’ve been falling down on the job with regular posting. My apologies. However there is something I can’t forget. The SMTP conference, one of my favorite LDS themed conferences, is at BYU this week starting Thursday. While I’m swamped with work I’m hoping to make it for several sessions on Thursday and Friday.

The full schedule is available at the SMPT site.

Some of the more interesting sessions are at 3 pm on Thursday. Unfortunately at the same time. One is a session on embodiment by Steven Peck and the other is on Finitism and Atonement by Jeremy Talmage. At 4 pm Steven moves to an evolution session with Blake Ostler. On Friday at 10 there’s a session on divine foreknowledge and freedom by Nate Rockwood and then a session by Joe Spencer on time, being and negation. (Not sure what that means) Of course all the sessions sound quite interesting, but those are the ones I’m most interested.

I do truly wish I could attend the session Saturday morning by Rosalynd Welch and Sam Brown on whether faith is a matter of choice. I’ve written a fair bit on that topic. Unfortunately it’s my son’s birthday and family of course comes first. I might do something on that later. Likewise James Mclachlan is doing a session on William Chamberlin’s social conception of God. This gets into some of the themes of a discussion he had in one of the philosophy collections whose name escapes me right now. (Expect an edit of that sentence later tonight) 

The Problem of Will in Free Will

There was a great two part episode of Partially Examined Life interviewing Eva Brann about her book Un-Willing: An Inquiry into the Rise of Will’s Power and an Attempt to Undo It. She basically traces the genealogy of the notion of will, locating the origins of modern philosophical notions in Augustine and Aquinas. The discussion they had was fascinating. Especially the second part where they critique the very notion of free will. 

I went to buy the book but inexplicably it’s only available in paperback with no Kindle or iBook version. I must confess I was pretty shocked by that in this day and age. Oddly her other books were available. 

One of the more interesting critiques was that it’s a problem to equate will with choice the way the contemporary free will debate tends to do. I confess the discussion really played to my own biases. I’ve long been quite skeptical of the way the debate has proceeded within philosophy. My own view is that if the concepts and intuitions don’t work such that we have freedom eventually what will change will be those very concepts. Brann’s book seems to play to this by noting the very different conceptions of will that have developed through the history of philosophy. Why do we pick one above others?

Continue reading The Problem of Will in Free Will

The Partially Examined Life

In case you’ve not seen it you really should go check out The Partially Examined Life podcast. It’s a bunch of former philosophers who each week or so pick an important book or paper in philosophy to read and discuss. They do a very great job of it without bringing in too much baggage. That is each episode can typically be listened to independently without having to come with a huge background of familiarity with other books or philosophers. (That helps of course – but they go out of their way to make it so you don’t need it)

Also surprising is that they read pretty equally from old philosophers, analytic philosophers and continental philosophers. So one week you’re reading about Carnap, the next Heidegger, and then a bit of Kant.

They also have a quite good blog as well as some study groups to prep for new episodes. I’ve not really checked those out much, but I’ve been listening to the podcast quite a bit while walking my dog at night.  

For those interested they are doing a group reading of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. That’s been a topic of some discussion among LDS philosophers the past few years. It comes up regularly on LDS-Herm for instance. I confess I have a copy in my Kindle app and have since I got an iPad. I regularly make reading attempts but never make it terribly far. Maybe this will change when they cover it in the podcast.