Category Archives: Volition

Ethics from the bottom up

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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

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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”

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 »

The first ethical dilemma

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The discipline of Ethics is not really about “good actions versus bad actions.” Murder is bad. Got it. The most interesting and vexing ethical questions are those issues where good people disagree about basic issues of human volition (i.e., “choice” or “free will”). And beneath the conscious volition there are different parts of the human brain doing probabilistic survival planning, with… Read more »

Ant choices and “t+1”

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Is there a “purpose” to the complex structure of ant colonies? Do ants make “choices” when they are constructing these colonies? When I begin to think about “human choice,” I first need to get “ant choice” straight in my head. So, here we go… The human mind has a hard time grasping how a colony of ants, each with extremely… Read more »

The ever-changing river

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The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus was noted for saying that “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” He recognized that the fundamental nature of the universe is that it is ever-changing and ever-moving. You might think of him as the first to understand and articulate, long before the idea of “Poisson processes” as explained in an earlier… Read more »

Will you choose the cake or the fruit?

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Call it “choice” or call it “free will,” we struggle daily when trying to figure out why people do bad things. Most of us go through our day thinking we are in control of our own choices, and we assume that others are as well. We can’t even entertain the thought that perhaps some other force if affecting how we… Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 4

Said no one at any funeral ever: “I figured out the probability for why he died.” [1] Part Two and Part Three of this series of posts looked why the statistics for cancer, automobile accidents and other unfortunate life events are often so rigidly probabilistic in narrow ranges in aggregate. In other words, we can often predict “How many?” down… Read more »