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Monday, 9 January 2017

The Realitorium

As you can see by the post list, I have been woefully neglecting this blog!  Doesn't time fly when you're breathing?

I don't usually approve of New Years resolutions, but as it is January I'm going to try and post both here and in my newer blog, The Realitorium.  Only time will tell if I'm successful in such a pledge.  Which, rather neatly brings us onto the subject of today's post.

I graduated from university back in 1997, as a mature student.  It was something of an accident that led me to read philosophy at Uni in the first place. (Accident or the ineffable will of "Bob"?). Living in Hull during the '90's jobs were few and far between.  The Government were doing their best to reduce the number of people on the official unemployment register and one of the methods they used was to offer people places on educational courses, which removed them from the unemployed statistics.  So, I signed up and took four, one year courses; Law, World Religions, Sociology and Philosophy.  Having left school with thoroughly average exam results, it was a chance to make my Curriculum Vitae look a little better.

I really enjoyed all the subjects but developed a particular interest in philosophy, especially as I was also reading the books of Robert Anti Wilson at the time.  It was the philosophy lecturer that convinced me that I should apply to the local university, which I did.

Again I enjoyed most areas of philosophy we covered in the course and the department had a policy to encourage students to choose whatever appealled to them, as long as the total value of courses taken were above a certain threshold. I quickky became totally fascinated by the philosophy of mind and would have gone on to complete my Master's degree in that subject if it hadn't been for outside pressures.

At the time, philosophy of mind was a strictly philosophical debate.  I had a particularly unpopular opinion that the problem of free will wasn't really a problem at all as we simply don't have free will - it is all just an illusion.  What has been fascinating is how science has been catching up with philosophy over the years since I left university.  Major advances in brain imaging has given science a real chance to solve such problems once and for all.  Currently all the evidence seems to be against the possibility of free will and shows that we, like any other animal, do what we do because of the way we are wired.

The implications for such a view are far-reaching.  Take, for example, crime and punishment.  If someone didn't choose to commit an act, should we hold them accountable in the traditional sense?  It raises the arguement that we should try and re-educate (re-wire) rather than punish.

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