On the Matter of Facts

Many fear that we are entering a so-called post-truth era, where public discourse is no longer concerned with what is true. During his presidential campaign in the US and in office, for example, Donald Trump has made plainly false utterances that he has refused to retract. Indeed, by all appearances he has made things up on the spot during his speeches and interviews, e.g., he doubly lied when he claimed Sweden had experienced a terrorist attack and then that two days later people had died in a subsequent riot there. Likewise those campaigning to persuade UK citizens to leave the European Union made the wild and unsupported claim, among others, that the union was costing the nation £350 million per week. In both countries, despite being called out on these falsehoods, an alarming proportion of their populations accepted the claims as true. Such displays of mendacity have always existed in politics, so why the fear now? The fear is also fueled by a recognition that the influence and authority of the mainstream media are being usurped by alternative online news sources. Perhaps the majority of adults in western democratic societies now receive their news through social media. These sources are unreliable. Indeed, increasingly items passed off as news are simply fictitious, that is, fake. It is very difficult to stem the tide of unreliable and phony news reports. But most worryingly many suppose that the truth or falsity of our claims in general cannot be objectively determined, and so whether a news report is true or false comes down to a difference of perspective. Your facts may simply not agree with my facts, as it is sometimes put. Hence fighting against this tide of misinformation and lying is futile. It is this pernicious relativism I want to take up and argue against.

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Do We Own Our Decisions?

Not all of our actions are by choice. For example, Petra might go to the hospital because she has broken her hand in a cycling accident. She doesn’t choose to go, she has to go. Yet, in another respect she does decide to go to the hospital insofar as she moves or wills herself to go, even if she would rather not. Not everything we do is by choice, but most everything we do is willed. Willing in this sense is the act of deciding for oneself to do something – no one else or no outside force is the cause of this act. We ourselves are the cause. If we were not, then nothing we do would be decided by us. Instead, we would be akin to puppets whose strings are the external forces. We are obviously not puppets. I got up this morning, for example, and I decided to brew coffee. Nothing or nobody forced me to decide to do this. Very often I am said to have decided this of my own free will. But I won’t talk in these terms directly because the concept of free will  itself leads one into a thicket of arguments in which most soon lose their way. I want to keep the discussion as conceptually basic as possible and hence manageable, both for the reader and myself. Continue reading “”

Deconstructing Anti-Physicalism

The arguments against physicalism with respect to consciousness, e.g., the knowledge argument, and the challenges to them present a familiar story. But it is seldom asked whether anti-physicalism is in itself a tenable view in terms of maintaining an internal consistency. Below I argue that on close inspection there are reasons to doubt that the view is tenable in this sense. There is, I contend, an internal tension to anti-physicalism that centres on a conflict between its principal conclusion, i.e., experiential properties are non-physical, and the fact that no one, including the anti-physicalist, doubts that others are conscious. It is a tension, I argue, that the anti-physicalists have overlooked, but which they may not have the resources to defuse. What follows is deconstructive analysis of the seminal arguments (texts) of anti-physicalism. It reveals a problematic ambiguity in their use of the terms relating to conscious states that, I submit, is the source of this tension.

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