Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Inspired by a conversation with Carl on the comments section on one of the posts.
When Cantor was on his death bed, still haunted by the ghost of the continuum hypothesis, the Devil appeared by his bedside. The Devil wanted Cantor's soul and offered him this deal: your soul for the truth of the continuum hypothesis. Cantor agreed on the condition that he stipulates the condition of his time in hell. He wrote his demands in a sealed envelop and gave it to the Devil only to be opened after the Devil tells him the secret that has racked Cantor's professional life. The Devil knew that hell was a place of infinite durations of suffering and knew that Cantor knew this as well so what can Cantor stipulate in his demands that would make this deal not go terribly bad for Cantor? Because there are few logicians and philosophers in hell to enlighten him, the Devil agreed.
The Devil tells Cantor the truth of the Continuum Hypothesis which the Devil stole from God's math notebooks (the Devil could not have came up with the truth of it himself due to his lack of mathematical and logical training). Cantor then dies a happy man with the truth of the CH. While in hell, the Devil sees Cantor and is about to stick his pitchfork into him. Cantor reminds him of their agreement so the Devil opens the envelop to see what stipulation Cantor had for his permanent stay. It read:
1. I am to have one minute of joy without being tortured for every 100 years of being tortured.
2. I am to have all my moments of joy consecutively.
3. I am to start on a minute of joy.
The NYT has an article by John Tierney on free will and X-PHI. It's a shame that though the article mentions that most philosophers today ascribe to various versions of compatibilism, it fails spectacularly by not giving the substantial reasons why philosophers do so. This may have the effect of making the NYT reader think that philosophers are a wishy washy bunch who's capricious beliefs are dependent on extra rational processes and are out of touch with the latest science. There is no mention of the quality of will approach, the reflective self-control approach, the higher self approach and the dispositionalists approach or any contemporary compatibilist approach all of which are compatible with the truth of determinism.
Of course there are some weaknesses to all these approaches but that doesn't mean they do not provide very good reason philosophers have for supporting compatibilism. These positions can be explained so that any reasonably intelligent and educated person can understand them which I suspect many readers of the NYTs are but they may very well be well beyond the scope of the journalist in question.