Gilbert Ryle, Reconnecting Mind and Body

Just after World War II and near the halfway mark of the 20th century, philosopher Gilbert Ryle published The Concept of Mind, a book widely credited with ending the philosophical division between physical and mental realms of reality. Continue reading “Gilbert Ryle, Reconnecting Mind and Body”

From Will to Responsibility

A person’s will gains force and visibility through responsibility assumed by that person for his or her actions. Force of will amplifies when responsibility extends past boundaries of self, family, ethnicity, social class, and culture. Continue reading “From Will to Responsibility”

Welcome Back, Sin

The age of modernity is ending. For all its trademark confidence, even its name suggesting an endless run, the modern age falters now. Soon it will stagger into the grey mist of history.

What comes next for us? Modernity overreached, and we inherit not confidence, but suspicion. Postmodern is a worthless label, signifying only hiatus and transition.

Can we hope to see a renaissance of human will? If we can somehow join in common purpose, then yes. But what would that involve? Continue reading “Welcome Back, Sin”

Does Free Will Exist? Summary Q & A

A question-and-answer format may summarize free will most simply. We’ll start with some general questions first and then recall very briefly what has been contributed by specific thinkers over time.

What is free will? Continue reading “Does Free Will Exist? Summary Q & A”

Sonya Tolstoy’s Contribution

Feminism sprang up as a social movement a few decades after Leo Tolstoy published his two great novels. Predating feminism, both War and Peace and Anna Karenina feature female characters whose lifelike portrayal equals and often exceeds that of the male protagonists.

In War and Peace, Natasha Rostov provides the developing character around whom the male figures come and go. In addition we meet Anna Pavlovna Scherer, who commands the true center of Petersburg society, orphan Sonya, the Rostovs’ niece, whose fate past childhood hangs in the balance, and Maria Bolkonsky, whose moral elevation redeems those around her. Anna Karenina has 4 major characters paired as Anna and Vronsky, Kitty and Levin, as well as a touching portrait of Varenka, a common girl raised and educated by an heiress.

Tolstoy leads his female and male readers alike not only to appreciate the women in his novels, but to identify with them, to feel their pain and their victories. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment, and one wonders how these fictional women became so true to life. Continue reading “Sonya Tolstoy’s Contribution”

The Will from Schopenhauer to Tolstoy

Lev Nikolayevitch Tolstoy wrote only 3 full novels, but many consider him to be the greatest of all novelists. Devotees debate whether War and Peace or Anna Karenina is his best work. Each required years of drafting and revising.

Sofya Andreyevna (Behrs) Tolstaya, or Sonya, wife of Leo Tolstoy, has received too little credit for her part in his writing career. She copied and discussed his manuscripts, read widely herself, protected him from distractions, took charge of household affairs, and most of this while pregnant as they had 13 children.

How does Tolstoy capture the interest of his readers? Like all great writers, he aptly presents just those details of scene, dialogue, and action on which the consciousness of each character in turn can focus, so that the reader transfers mentally into living moments of time. His prose evokes emotions, leads the reader to feel what the character feels. In narrative voice Tolstoy sometimes steps back and comments on how the character may once or repeatedly miss the mark, making crucial mistakes that lead to a growing dilemma. Yet the same character reveals within his or her own thoughts, presented to the reader, how actions are justified in a mind shaped by personal temperament, history, and goals. Continue reading “The Will from Schopenhauer to Tolstoy”

Schopenhauer. 5. An Atheist Seeks Immortality

In Arthur Schopenhauer we meet the paradox of an atheist who believed in immortality.

A quick reflex would be to declare Schopenhauer hopelessly confused and dismiss him out of hand. That’s difficult for me, however, because he developed the concept of will so decisively.

I believe that the concept of will marks a path, an intellectual path at least, that makes belief in God reasonable. Let me try to explain. Continue reading “Schopenhauer. 5. An Atheist Seeks Immortality”