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Sunday, May 24, 2009

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This is what Daniel Dennett compares to Dumbo's "magic feather": the enchanted plume (in fact ignominiously plucked from the rear end of one of their own) that the crows gave Dumbo to help him summon the confidence to be able to fly. He was actually capable of flight all along, of course (all he really needed were those big ears of his) and once he learned he actually had no need of his belief in the magic feather he did perfectly well without it.

Malcolm,

Unfortunately for Dennett, one common (and in my view, apt) suspicion of him is that he's not really suggesting we give up any feather, but simply trade one in for another. In which case, why bother? Especially when even Dawkins admits that the particular feather in question (LFW) is one even he, Bright Supreme, cannot do without pragmatically.

Bill,

As for the illusionism response, I'm tempted to take a different tact with it. Maybe, like with consciousness, we hit a point with questions of the will where no good and certain answers can be had. LFW may well be correct, or possibly incorrect, but it could be there are deeper questions of the will that thoughts of LFW and issues related to it are drawing us toward, and which are themselves important. I'm tempted to think that, in questions of the will, it's important to accept 'our' will as truly 'ours' even if questions of causation and LFW vex us.

Malcolm,

Did you bother to read Smilansky's paper? You have to do better than peddle that Dennett sophistry to deal with a thinker of Smilansky's stature.

Your comment leads to no clarification or progress whatsoever.

Bill,

This is slightly off-topic, but have you read 'Personal Agency' by E.J. Lowe? I just finished reading it the other day. It's absolutely fantastic and I think you'd enjoy it very much. He defends a very robust theory of libertarianism, among other things, and has a fantastic discussion of the failure of causal closure arguments to rule out dualistic interactionism. If you have access to a university library database, you can read it for free from Oxford's online service.

Sorry to interrupt the discussion. I just couldn't think of anywhere else to recommend the book to you!

Fair enough, Bill, and no I hadn't. I don't see Dennett's analogy as mere sophistry at all - he makes a persuasive case - but I ought to have read the paper you cited before commenting.

I shall do so now.

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