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KOL293 | Faith and Free Will, with Steve Mendelsohn


Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 293.

This is my discussion with my old friend and colleague, patent lawyer Steve Mendelsohn, about faith and free will and related issues, some of which are discussed in his book Shallow Draughts: Faith in the Absence of Free Will (2017) (PDF of this book and his most recent one posted here [Shallow Draughts] and here [Sequitur] with his permission). (Steve and I worked as patent lawyer associates together from about 1994-96 or so in Schnader Harrison in Philly.)

Yes, yes, I know I normally talk only about libertarian legal theory, or, mostly, IP, and try to avoid discoursing about topics I don’t think I’m an expert on … like faith, concept formation, knowledge theory, free will, compatibilism, and the like, but, hey, what the hell. Caveat listener!

Youtube version embedded below.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Dennis Nezic August 19, 2020, 6:32 pm

    Excellent repartee. Very enjoyable to listen to the quick back-and-forths.

    But the topic seems pointless … we behave as though we have free will. Steve was trying to convince Steph, even though he’d say that this was simply an illusion, that he was automatically predictably doing what his collection of atoms (that form his body, mind and memories) were confined to do. Saying that things operate based on the laws of calculatable physics (determinism) is tautology, since physics is literally the study of how things work. It’s like saying “it is what it is” – “things function as they function”.

  • Martin August 23, 2020, 6:29 pm

    At about 49 minutes you’re talking about our minds having a direction towards seeking the truth. As evidence for this you point towards the technological advancement we have had historically. But doesn’t that have more to do with successful societal organization and values? Societies that are backwards in general will tend to lose out in wars, economic competition and so on. Societies that allow or promote economic, technological and cultural experimentation will tend to have more advancement because of economic incentivies and probably other reasons too. Doesn’t that better explain why we are more advanced than our forefathers 20 000 years ago?

    Maybe people in general look towards the truth but I’ve seen some people really go down some conspiracy nut rabbit holes. In their minds they probably are approaching the truth more and more but from what I can see most of the time in those cases they’re just becoming more and more deluded.

  • Dennis Nezic August 26, 2020, 9:42 pm

    [Spoiler alert]. The 8-part series “Devs (2020)”, that was mentioned in this podcast, was terrible! Not only is the theory of INFINITELY many alternate universes retarded, but everything else in the show was too. The idea of simulating every single quantum event using a relatively infinitessimally small quantum machine is retarded. The idea that they could go back 2000 years, back to the dinosaurs, but can’t go forward a few days is retarded. The idea that they can see themselves eating vanilla ice cream at a certain point in the future, but can’t choose to change that to chocolate ice cream, is retarded. (That alone should be a proof ad absurdum that forecasting the future is impossible, and retarded.) The ending was retarded too … he’s alive in infinitely many other universes, why would she bother transplanting his tragic memories into the sim. It’s not actually him. Forest and Lily died. There are infinitely many clones of them that already exist – those sims are just as real as her new sim – and in infinitely many of those universes, Amaya is still alive. But I guess because the “theory” says there are infinitely many universes, there will also be infinitely many of them in which these retarded decisions are made. Literally anything that can happen, DOES happen. Each of them become president in infinitely many of them, for example. Each of them become senators too, like that affirmative action hire in the show. (I suspect most of the actors were affirmative action hires. The script writer too.)

    • Stephan Kinsella December 23, 2020, 12:18 am

      I have since watched Devs, and really liked it, though I realize it’s goofy and ridiculous, in the end.

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