Welcome to Flickers of Freedom. We decided to create this blog to fill the vacuum left by the closing of the Garden of Forking Paths. We aim to promote the discussion of issues in the philosophy of action, concentrating on free will, moral responsibility and agency. We hope to build on the success of the Garden (and avoid the problems that led to its closing).
The Garden of Forking Paths was a success. It lasted nearly six years and it provided a forum for high quality discussion. Some of its posts led directly to journal publications; many contributed less directly to publications. It also enabled philosophers working in different parts of the United States, and in different parts of the world, to establish friendships and a genuine community. Many of us played a part in that success. But we also acknowledge some responsibility for its eventual closing. We took the Garden for granted; we were less active than we should have been. We only realized how important the forum was for us, personally and professionally, when we were faced with the prospect of losing it. We hope that the experience will jolt all of us out of our lethargy, and that Flickers of Freedom will carry on the best traditions of the Garden.
We believe that our renewed commitment to sustaining a lively agency community will help to avoid the problems that led to the closing of the Garden. Beyond this, we are taking steps to ensure that post quality is high and that postings are frequent. Taking Pea Soup, the ethics blog, as our model, we have decided at least initially to limit the pool of contributors to professionals working in the philosophy or psychology of agency. We are also setting down a requirement that contributors contribute at least two posts a year to the blog (not including brief pointers to news items or upcoming conferences, papers, etc.). In addition, comments will be moderated. Commenting on the blog will be open to all comers; the only requirement is that comments be (reasonably) polite and on topic.
A word on the name. Flickers of Freedom is a phrase introduced into philosophical debate by John Martin Fischer, in his highly influential discussion of the Frankfurt-style cases that help motivate his semi-compatibilism. We adopt the name for this blog not because we expect that it will be appropriate to describe it as merely a flicker of freedom, but in tribute to John Martin Fischer. Not only is his work a central reference for all us, but we also want to acknowledge the role he played in establishing and guiding the Garden. He was pivotal to its success, though he cannot be blamed for its eventual closure. We hope the lively, penetrating but always generous philosophical voice of John Fischer will be echoed here at Flickers.
These are exciting times in the philosophy of agency. In the past 12 months, at least half a dozen important books on many different aspects of the topic have been published, as well as dozens of papers in the best journals. There are new developments in the defense of the main positions (libertarianism, compatibilism, and skepticism about free will), in the science of agency, in discussions of moral responsibility, and much more. There has also been the establishment of an exciting new interdisciplinary free will project at Florida State University. We expect Flickers to benefit from, and help to foster this activity. Let’s flicker!
Thomas Nadelhoffer, Neil Levy, Tamler Sommers, Dan Speak, Eddy Nahmias, Manuel Vargas, Michael McKenna, & Daniel Cohen