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Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

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Almost anything can be explained in retrospect, and it only takes a couple of apparent connections to make such explanations seem compelling.

That is actually the fatal flaw of such post-hoc reasoning – it can be used to explain anything. Therefore, the fact that someone can invent a post-hoc justification is not predictive that the explanation is actually true.

In other words – we tend to be naively impressed with the fact that an explanation is available. We tend to assume that a phenomenon would not have an explanation, or alternative explanation, if that explanation were not true. We therefore find it satisfying, and therefore compelling, when such an explanation is available.

However, the human capacity for invention and pattern seeking is profound. We can find an explanation for anything – and so the availability of such an explanation should not be compelling at all. The ability of Star Trek fans to invent reasons to plug the gaping plot holes or technological anomalies that often crop up on the show is an example of human creativity in this direction – although this is done for fun.

In a news item in the September 1 issue of Nature, “Taking aim at free will” (free online), Kerri Smith recounts the latest findings of neuroscience about how and when we make “decisions,” and how that bears on philosophical issues of free will. The two-page piece is worth reading for its exposition of the latest research (some not yet published), and how philosophers are reacting to it.


 

Comments

Re: the new exclamation point.

I may have learned the word "Caesura" from Eddie and Cruisers, but leave it to Norm to teach me the word "Schwa". Outstanding word. It just rolls out the mouth so nicely. I'm adding to my 'fav words to say list' fer sure. Wiki sez it exists in practically every language, - from Hebrew to Indonesian. Now if only I can remember it for the next Scrabble game...

It's nice to know we're not too old to learn new things. Schwa was new to me as well.

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