Suggested readings, #8

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

The Freudian Loafer, the Intellectual and the Politician’s Son. Louis Sarkozy, the son of the former French president, wants to make academics into influencers. Oh boy. (New York Times)

A philosophical approach to routines can illuminate who we really are. The things we do every day aren’t just routines to be hacked. (Qrius)

Yes, determinists, there is free will. You make choices even if your atoms don’t. Or so says philosopher Christian List. Too bad his defense of the notion seems pretty conceptually muddled. (Nautilus)

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

2 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #8”

  1. Horgan loves him some List.

    Me? First, intentionality is not the same as free will, whether in a collective, or an individual animal less intellectual than Homo sapiens.

    Second, intentionality is not the same as, or necessarily a part of, free will. Barbara Ehrenreich, in “Natural Causes,” her latest book, invokes Jessica Riskin’s book “The Restless Clock,” which talks about “agency” as a purpose-based set of actions below the mental level of consciousness, and I think her “agency” is the equivalent to List’s “intentionality.”

    Thirdly, this whole issue, despite his talk of an analog switch two-thirds of the way down, ignores what I have previously talked about, for years, as psychological “constraints.” That means whatever subself is in the driver’s seat doesn’t act fully freely, but is not determined in a physics way, either. Rather, things like child abuse, a loathsome boss, etc., all constrain how freely that subself acts.

    List does talk about “contingent factors” in Horgan’s piece, but that’s not at all what I mean.

    Otherwise, I remain with Daniel Wegner, going beyond Dennett and rejecting the existence of a Cartesian Free Willer along with rejecting a Cartesian Meaner. (And Wegner sadly died way too young.) Blog post in the works!

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  2. And, on further thought, per John’s interview, I would distinguish between “agency” and “intentionality.” Consciousness of a certain level may not be a prerequisite for the former, but it — and some version of some sort of volition — is involved with “intentionality,” I think. And, I don’t know about you, Massimo, but this is an area that I see as being one of muddlement.

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