Category Archives: Volition

Your moral probability

      1 Comment on Your moral probability

When encountering an in-your-face moral dilemma, say the imprisoning of refugee children apart from their parents at the southern U.S. border, you can likely predict which classic ethical justification certain people are going to throw out first. Some people will first speak of the damage done to the children, letting their “empathy flag” fly high. Others will shout, “But the… Read more »

The moral conversation

      3 Comments on The moral conversation

I have been writing a continuing series about morality and ethics, which I summarize as being about “Why good people disagree,” since March, beginning with this post about the “first ethical dilemma,” as encountered very early in homo sapiens’ existence as a species. My basic position is that our theological and philosophical languages have evolved, over the centuries, as words for… Read more »

Book review: “The Human Instinct” by Kenneth Miller

I have long had a habit of looking in used bookstores for copies of a 1999 book by biologist and best-selling textbook author Kenneth Miller entitled Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, which I then give to friends. Miller’s book is one of the few scientifically-competent books about evolution that is written with the sensitive… Read more »

Hearing, seeing, and choosing in logarithms – part 2

In Part One of this series of posts, I demonstrated the non-linear “natural logarithmic” relationship between the frequency of a sound and our perception of it. Likewise, our perception of the volume of sound has this same “proportion-based” relationship, and I noted that this is true for our other senses as well. These are manifestations of what is called the… Read more »

Your four (or more) ethical brains

      4 Comments on Your four (or more) ethical brains

The organizing thread of these observations on ethics and morality is that we have historically mis-ordered the sequence of human ethical reasoning. My assertion is that first multiple parts of the human brain are evaluating the alternative survival strategies which they have evolved to address. Only second do the human languages of theology and philosophy attempt to “map” the conflicting… Read more »

Hearing, seeing, and choosing in logarithms – part 1

The fret spacing on a guitar can give us a a very important insight into how human volition (i.e., choice or free will) works biologically, at the deepest level of our brain neurons. The insight is that the biochemistry of our nerve cells has a natural logarithmic, rather than linear, mathematics built into it, which is crucial to how we… Read more »

Ethics from the bottom up

      2 Comments on Ethics from the bottom up

I have studied ethics for many years now, including formal academic work. I started from the usual place, which was an assumption that you will find some higher-order “correct ethical decision” for every dilemma if you can analyze it properly “top-down” and apply the correct philosophical or theological model. Over the years I have more often preferred to turn this… Read more »

Zeno’s paradox and the infinitesimal

      1 Comment on Zeno’s paradox and the infinitesimal

In a recent post I wrote about the split among neuroscientists between the “determinists” and the “compatibilists.” The former see choice/free will/volition as an illusion created by our brains, while the latter see an active role for our “minds” in determining our future actions, although not necessarily as the “master decision-maker” that our personal “homunculus” often perceives. In that post… Read more »

Free will, determinism, and “the nudge”

      7 Comments on Free will, determinism, and “the nudge”

Over thousands of years, humans have placed a lot philosophical and theological baggage on the overlapping concepts of free will, choice and volition. We have developed elaborate systems of ethics and religions to articulate “the right” choices to be selected from the array of options open to us daily. Yet there remains a split among neuroscientists as to the nature… Read more »