Archive for September, 2010

Responsibility as Ownership of One’s Actions

Posted in Karel on September 21, 2010 by CL

In a somewhat-recent post on the New York Times Blog, Galen Strawson ends up concluding that whether or not we ultimately have free will, we can assume responsibility for our actions as an “ownership” of them.  He “can do no better than” the novelist Ian McEwen who wrote to him:

“I see no necessary disjunction between having no free will (those arguments seem watertight) and assuming moral responsibility for myself. The point is ownership. I own my past, my beginnings, my perceptions. And just as I will make myself responsible if my dog or child bites someone, or my car rolls backwards down a hill and causes damage, so I take on full accountability for the little ship of my being, even if I do not have control of its course. It is this sense of being the possessor of a consciousness that makes us feel responsible for it.”

In other words we plead guilty to Nietzsche’s accusation (which Strawson quotes) of arrogantly claiming free will in the face of all reason to doubt its existence; but then we reaffirm personal responsibility in full knowledge that it is an artifice.  Now it need not solely be pride that motivates this reaffirmation: we might reaffirm it because it is a convenient, socially useful way of dividing up necessary tasks (someone has to fix things when things go wrong, and one way to assign that task is to pick the person whose body caused those bad things to happen[1]).  Or we might reaffirm responsibility simply because, on a more fundamental level, it is an important part of how we comprehend and organize the world, cut up the whole complicated mass of bodies and events into persons and actions. Continue reading


The Vocal Sounds of Birds

Posted in Aurélien on September 20, 2010 by Aurélien Saint-Honoré

Apteryx — Bill-snappers
Bell-birds — Distant bells
Bitterns — Booming
Blackbirds — Mimic crowing, besides their wild native notes
Bulbuls — Babbling
Bullfinch — Piping
Cariama — Screaming
Cassowary — Bellowing and distant thunder
Cat-birds — Mocking
Chatterers — Chattering Continue reading