When I deconverted from Evangelical Christianity, I started reading philosophy. Academic philosophy provided a more rigorous discussion of the existential questions that held my attention. A subject that's interested me a lot has been the idea of moral responsibility, and whether we can retain it in a naturalistic universe. Arguing in the negative was Galen Strawson in Freedom and Belief, which I gave up half-way since I found it a bit too technical.
Something more accessible (but perhaps less robust) was Bruce Waller's Against Moral Responsibility. If a human being is just a computer made out of meat, how can they really be responsible?
Here's some representative quotes:
There's an interesting discussion on how and why freedom is illusory:
Perhaps the most compelling passage was his defense of Robert Harris, a serial killer with a horrifically abusive childhood:
Something which found its way into Beta Male was a discussion of genetic predispositions towards violence:
I find analytic philosophy to be really interesting. Philosophers start from basic, foundational intuitions, and construct arguments on top of them. The problem is that somethings these intuitions lead to conflicting arguments, which is what you would expect from a brain that was built for survival and reproduction, not truth tracking. John Danaher over at philosophical disquisitions phrases it thusly, in an excellent overview of Waller's book:
Which side wins this particular debate? Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to tell. Both have presented valid arguments for their side, but both of those arguments rest on principles of responsibility that are, at best, intuitively supported. The question then becomes which principle do you find more intuitively compelling. Obviously, based on his thought experiment, Mele thinks his principle is more compelling, but Strawson, no doubt, finds his more compelling.
Integrating philosophy into a novel is a difficult thing. It has to be done organically, because it's easy to make your characters talking mouthpieces for a particular ideology or mental framework. And when that happens, they cease to be characters, and become utilitarian machines for conveying arguments. Of course, that's not what a full rounded person is. Striking the balance is hard, but not impossible.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis