Read Part I.
- Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism? 43% went with externalism, about 26% with internalism. It is impossible to write about this without sounding goofy or repetitive. Briefly, internalism means you know why you know something—and you know why you know why you know something. Externalism means something exterior to you causes the things that happen to you exterior to you are actually exterior to you. That straight? Let’s go with externalism because “how” questions are impossible to answer. That is, you can’t answer how something that is necessarily true can be true, but you can know it is true.
- External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism? Idealism is the belief that everything that exists is just thought; that there is no external reality, but there are minds that think things, and that thought is existence. If you remember anything about Bishop Berkeley, then you will remember idealism. About 4% of philosophers ignore Dr Johnson’s sore toe and still hold this view.
Skepticism is what I call an academic belief (we meet another shortly): only academics pretend to believe these. I say “pretend” because nobody really holds these beliefs, and if they say they do they are lying or insane. Skepticism is the belief that nothing exists. 5% of the academic philosophers actually said they agreed with this. But how did these 5% even know they were answering a survey?
Realism is the belief that an external world, independent of human belief, exists. I am happy to report that about 82% agreed with this.
- Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will? “No free will” is another of those academic beliefs (see the survey notes for term definitions). That is, nobody, even those who hold that we have no free will, actually believes we have no free will. I think most of the astonishing 12% who say there is no free will do so because they have not found a way to reconcile determinism (each effect has a cause) with free will. They reason that the universe is marching mechanically along, each effect becoming a cause for another effect, and thus they cannot find room for willed actions. But in doing this, these folks have forgotten an even more fundamental philosophical argument: just because you can’t think of an explanation for a thing, doesn’t mean the explanation doesn’t exist.
You’ll also notice that those who argue against free will tend to do so to excuse people’s bad behavior. “The criminal must be let go, judge, because he had no free will!” They forget, when they make that asinine argument, that the judge can counter, “I have no choice but to incarcerate your mascot.”
Compatibilism (79%) is the idea that free will is compatible with determinism; a secular Calvinism, if you like. Libertarianism (14%) in this sense means acting with a free will in the absence of determinism. It’s not clear—nobody knows how—determinism can sometimes shut itself off to allow free will, but libertarians believe that it can. I lean towards a mix of Searle (the mind is not a computer) and Penrose (quantum mechanics does not help you free yourself from determinism), here; that is, towards libetarianism.
No, I cannot explain how we have free will in the face of determinism. But that does not mean that free will doesn’t exist, because I have knowledge that it does. Think of it this way: a Berkeley High School graduate will take a car ride and know he gets from A to B without having a clue how the engine works. Yet he knows he got from A to B. So traveling by car is true, but how it is true, he doesn’t know.
- God: theism or atheism? 73% went with atheism, about 15% with theism. This, of course, is the question. What’s most interesting about it, academically speaking, is that arguments for atheism usually consist of arguments against theism.
I mean, a philosopher will triumphantly announce a new line of thought which, say, invalidates the ontological argument (a popular attempt at proving God’s existence), and then say, to himself only, “Well, that’s that. Since I can’t accept any of the arguments that prove God’s existence, then God must not exist. Plus, look at my fancy new smart phone, built on the laws of science. Also, I don’t need God to explain life. Of course, most of my colleagues are atheists, and I don’t want to seem a bore.” He thus sides with atheism.
But, I need hardly add, that an argument showing the invalidity of the ontological argument is not logically equivalent to disproving God’s existence. Philosophers know that, of course, which is why they keep their reasoning to themselves.
I have no new arguments to offer on this question, but consider this. Since all our knowledge is built on faith (see yesterday’s point #1), it is not inconceivable to suppose that knowledge of the question must necessarily rest on faith. (The Christian religion believes that.) Naturally, I can offer no proof.
In there is still interest, there are more great questions left. Like “Logic: classical or non-classical?” Classical, of course.
Read Part I.