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Sunday, February 20th, 2011
5:33 pm - Philosorapters - Preparing students for the job market

Hello everyone,

I doubt this is the right place to post this so I apologize if it's wrong.

I recently applied for graduate programs in philosophy all over the US. I realized at some point that I was doing about an hour of research a day and just storing it for myself. This seemed a bit on the selfish side so I decided that I would publish my findings on this blog. This blog is my research into how to survive as a career philosopher.


This blog is designed to keep you updated on professional news and movements in philosophy today, trolled from many site over the internet.
Firstly, particular focus is on the professional aspects of philosophy such as how to create a good C/V, prepare ones application, Publish papers, and understand hiring practices.
Secondly, I'm also quite interested in why philosophy, specifically critical thinking, is not taught in high school, and other issues in the profession.

I will be posting my findings that I think could be beneficial to other undergrads, graduates as well as post-doc students.

Please feel free to comment, criticize, or suggest research material.

Yet again, I apologize if this is posted in the wrong place,

I hope this blog might help philosophy students prepare for the job market if that is where they want to go.

All the best,

William Parkhurst

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Saturday, June 27th, 2009
8:40 pm - Determinism is bunk!

Hello, I'm new to livejournal but anyway.

My question is, how is the universe deterministic if it isn't deterministic at the smallest level (i.e., electrons orbiting around nuclei and such)? If we don't know that the universe is deterministic at this level, then how is everything of higher order organization deterministic?

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Friday, February 23rd, 2007
11:20 am - This essay is due in a couple of hours. Quick comments and critiques are highly appreciated.

In a nation where we pride ourselves in our freedom, it is difficult to consider the idea of determinism – that everything we do is by no choice of our own. The general sentiment is: this is America; we can live how we want and have any career we want. No king or president or dictator can tell us how to live our lives. While this is certainly true, what uncontrollable factors have affected the way we live or the decisions we seem to make? Even in a nation abundant with liberty like the United States, it is undeniable that our lives are a certain way in part, if not entirely, due to factors beyond our control.

I have a passion for killer whales. I can’t say I chose to be interested in them. I was watching Free Willy one day around the ripe old age of 7 and I thought, Gee, whales are pretty neat-o. At the time my current interests were cats and other typical little girl-y subjects, but these were quickly replaced by the fearsome killer whale. Since then my interest in whales has snowballed into a full-fledged passion, and as a result, one of my biggest goals in life is to have a career working with them. I don’t really know if Willy the Whale was the true perpetrator of my enthusiasm for his kind, but I should think it safe to say that without an interest in killer whales, I wouldn’t have chosen to pursue a career with marine mammals. I will even go as far to say that I chose this particular career path because I have such a strong interest in killer whales. I didn’t choose to be interested in whales, but I chose my career based on that interest. So was my choice really free? It almost appears as though this career path was selected for me.

It is important to note that a lack of free will does not necessarily equate to a lack of desire or enthusiasm. There is a misconception that things we have to do are things we do not want to do. I think that is partly why it is so difficult to grasp the concept of determinism. Because we are doing things we want to do, we never stop to consider the possibility that we had no other choice.

Beyond that, determinism dominates every minute detail of our lives. I’d like to think that it is entirely up to me whether I go to bed at 9 pm or 12 am, but a hardcore determinist will tell me the reason I ended up going to bed at 12 am, then trace it all the way back to my ancestors’ arrival on the Mayflower, and somehow attest that the time I went to bed was absolutely no choice of my own.

But consider this: if we lived in a truly deterministic world, our brains would not have been designed in a way that made us capable of thinking critically or problem solving; as such abilities would be utterly useless in a world where decisions are already made for us. We are not robots or slaves to our destiny. We have brains that allow us to discriminate between choices, consider possible outcomes, and make decisions based on our reasoning. What purpose do our brains hold if any level of free will does not exist? We might as well be plants.

Let us assume for a moment that we do live in an entirely determinist world, and everybody knows it. We no longer reward or punish others for their behavior, because we no longer hold them morally responsible for their actions. Without any sort of peer consequence, however, it is likely that many behaviors will become gradually extinct. Behavioral psychologists, animal trainers, teachers, parents, and the like have all proven that consequence shapes behavior. The methods of operant and classical conditioning have consistently demonstrated that motivation is an essential element in behavior and decision making. Consequently, it is reasonable to suggest that in a society where punishment and reward does not exist, nobody would do anything. Without any sort of reinforcement, people wouldn’t exert themselves or make an effort, because, why bother? Whether they succeed or fail in a task is through no fault of their own.

This apparent failure in the inner workings of society would be of no concern, as we’d all assume we were just destined to become worthless anyway. But regardless of humanity’s ambivalence towards the matter, whether or not one’s ultimate behavior was a result of something predetermined or the process of operant conditioning is impossible to know for certain, but it seems unlikely, if not utterly depressing, to suggest that behavior is entirely shaped by determinism and cannot be altered through conditioning.

While uncontrollable factors undoubtedly play a part in our decisions and lifestyles, I believe there is still a freedom of choice within natural limits. I know that my interest in whales is certainly a significant contributing factor in my decision for my choice career, and a lack thereof would likely eliminate any consideration to begin with. I also know that my decision to pursue a career with marine mammals will reward me with fulfilling my long-time goals. Nevertheless, I assume that I have alternative choices and am perfectly capable of going another route. This will inevitably result in further discussion of a deterministic world view, specifically how my maturing interests prevailed over my girlhood dreams of swimming with Shamu. Unfortunately, determinism is nearly impossible to argue against due to its principles of logically rationalizing everything, even in the most extreme cases. And while we certainly cannot disprove the theory of determinism, we cannot prove it either, as it relies on causality which impossible for us to truly witness.

Thus, we will never know if our lives are completely predetermined, we have absolute free will, or something in between. Like religion, it is something we can only put faith into and believe. For the sake of my piece of mind, I choose to believe that I have control over most of the decisions I make, while acknowledging that the possible choices I have before me are a result of decisions I have made in the past and other factors beyond my control. If I was a hard determinist, I think I would end up losing my sense of purpose in life, because I’d feel like I didn’t have a real choice anyway. The soft determinist approach finds the proper balance between accepting the inevitability of factors out of our control and the necessity of taking responsibility for one’s own actions.

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Sunday, May 14th, 2006
10:53 pm

I used to be a staunch determinist before coming across Nietzsche. I was adamant that it was the only philosophical argument that was uncontestable. I even managed to convert a few people to determinism and almost felt an obligation to explain it to the majority of people I met. It occured to me a while back how fragile a perspective can be. How one can be so certain of something, to the nth degree, and yet with time and 'knowledge,' how that perspective can gradually change.

I've yet to come across a detailed critique from Nietzsche that negates determinism, but that's not important. A lot of people even consider Nietzsche to be a determinist. The one thing that seems clear is that he never considered it a topic that important to discuss, particularly in his major works. He sums it up brilliantly when he says, "We have arranged for ourselves a world in which we can live - by positing bodies, lines, planes, causes and effects, motion and rest, form and content; without these articles of faith nobody could now endure life. But that does not prove them. Life is no argument. The conditions of life might include error."

I don't like getting too much into the "how can you ever prove 'x's existence" type of philosophy. Frankly it bores me and leads to the least worthwhile type of discussions. I do however think it's important to realise the nature of certain beliefs and to understand why they have come about. Cause and effect, like any other notion, is completely dependant on its being understood, contemplated, discussed and accepted. It has no intrinsic value in itself. As we evolve there's every possibility that the idea will be wiped out, or replaced, or changed beyond recognition. Despite all of my reasoning, sense, knowledge and experiences so far (which indicates that cause and effect / determinism IS undeniable), it's important to realise that one's perspective is so fragile that it can potentially be revolutionised by simply words, a collection of audible patterns being processed by the brain, or an assemblance of shapes in the forms of letters being processed by the brain (a classic case of cause and effect in itself).

Does anyone else find themselves tying their self up in knots?

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Friday, May 12th, 2006
11:57 am - If God Exists...

As according to Christian dogma, how do we have free will?

I am going to present this merely as a line of 'thus' if that makes any sense.
The way I see it: God created everything, thus God knows everything.

If God knows everything, this suggests to me that God knows both the past, as well as the future (or rather the future as time relates to us, I shall get to this point ina moment). And if this is true, then that suggests to me, that time is predetermined, our actions are predetermined, our choices are predetermined, and if all of this is true, then ultimately it was God's decision for us to go to Heaven or Hell.

In the game Legacy of Kain: Defiance, the story-line makes exactly this kind of distinction. Kain argues that all beings are ultimately bound to one path which they must follow (which is ironic considering his trips through time have often created alternate time-lines in which history was altered, suggesting that there must be some greater power overseeing this for the purpose of a few individuals), but there is one person who has free-will, and the power to make a choice.

Now, some Christians I have argued with have made it a point that 'God exists outside of time' but to me, this just supports my idea that if God exists, then there is no free will. If God does exist outside of time, this suggests to me that God can then view all of time in a single glance, as there is no past, present, or future for God. (Think the aliens in Slaughterhouse-Five, that's always a reference I like to use in regards to this. They could view time as a series of panels I guess it was, and knew that they would destroy the universe some day with an experimental engine they were testing. I don't remember why they didn't try to stop it though.)

Does this argument make sense?

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Monday, May 8th, 2006
6:33 pm - Freedom and Freewill

And it became aware to me, in a flash like a burnt out black-light, everything causes everything. But the ambiguity of that statement causes an immense misunderstanding. It means that everything is determined absolutely and infinitely so.

I was reading Spinoza the other night, trying impossibly to get an image of what he meant, and finally it became clear to me. I saw a strip like a grey highway going into the eternal source, God, from which all things were "created," or more clearly stated, from which all things were caused. Yet God is not transient and outside of existence, but rather IS existence in it's entirety (by E1P18). If God were not existence entirely or outside of existence, then God's essence would not necessarily involve existence (by E1A7 + E1E9) which, because God must be infinite (E1D6 + E1P11), would be absurd. The strip was my body. It was paralleled by another strip, that was forever directly adjacent to it, yet which never went through it. That strip was my mind. It was colored baby blue, and was directly on top of the road which was my body. Those two strips went forever into the completeness of eternity, which I saw as a big ball of energy that was colored much like an oil puddle, with many different colors swishing around with each other. Then as I thought harder about it, it slowly was faded into a bluish grey, I supposed because I understood that it was my mind and parallel body conceiving it, which then was consumed by the oil-like multicolored ball of energy again. This time I saw the entire energy ball as having many different paths of color, my blue and grey included, in direct contact with every other path of color and all other shades.

Then I realized what he meant by E1P36 and E1P28, that from every cause an effect necessarily follows and that every thing has a cause and creates a cause of some sort (though we may not know it at this point in time); these two parallel roads, my mind and my body as distinctly separate objects (By E2P7 and E2P13), are also in parallel contact with every other mind and body pushing on them with a certain force (through the domino effect), and all other forces that we have yet to understand. This means that everything is pushing on everything else, causing all things to happen (E2P48); the composite units, you and I, cause many different effects in the entirety of the universe. I saw this as a big swirl, with my grey road and my bluish path together amidst other mind body paths, again all pushing equally on one another, but in different ways.

It's all networking together, in perfect balance (not human balance, but the balance of God, or as Spinoza put it "a self caused cause; a substance with infinite attributes (E1P11)," because human balance is weighted toward human preservation and human bias, and therefore sometimes misunderstood [E1App]). So, the fact that you are reading this right now, means that my "object-idea"(E2P7 and E2P13) pushes with some force creating some effect, which causes your "object-ideas" to cause something in you. But you can "freely," choose to accept the premises or not or to stop reading, etc., but the choice that you choose, was determined by the choices that you have made, by the choices your parents made, and the choices that your culture and language made, how awake you are right now, if your kid is crying and you need to stop, if you don't like the thought, etc., which all had causes going back infinitely in time. It only seems finite because we are generally only aware of finitude. So, that you considered "freely" was actually a determined choice as you chose, because of all the "object-ideas" that have moved your ideas around, and that you conditioned yourself with having also moved some "object-ideas" around; your mind and body being an integral part of the network of forces.

The butterfly effect is not exclusively objective; this is the misinterpretation. Everything causes everything. Why can you read the words I type? Why do you understand the thoughts I utter? Why do you understand the word "car," yet an Aboriginal wouldn't? It's all dependent, determined, by where you live, and who you are around. But, that seems simple enough...well, no, not exactly. That means the thoughts that you have were determined by the place you grew up in, your fundamental building blocks as well as your biological structure, household, friends, etc. But why did you grow up in the place that you did? Because your parents mated there or moved you there. Was this free will on your part? Could you, as a fetus, tell your parents where you wanted to live, and around what beliefs and cultural norms, so as to have the certain thoughts that you wanted to be around?

No, of course not; but of course that they chose to live there was also caused by something they liked or didn't like due to the fact that they were raised somewhere with some belief structure, with some habits, etc. Whenever we "freely" choose, there is a reason; which, it being the reason, means its what determined us to choose the way we did. Yet, this determined choice, was determined by many different determinations, which were influenced by many different forces. It is a network, not an instance; and that network is the eternal flux. Bodies and ideas are part of the moving flux, as they are interrelated forces that both exist outside of each other and yet act with each other in the flux of infinite causality.

Consider, why you are thinking and reacting to this post the way you are. Why do you have the thoughts that you do? Really stop and ask yourself why...it's absolutely amazing when you think about it extensively...Are you not delving into your box of ideas that you encountered throughout your life until now? Then aren't those ideas that you encountered throughout your life, being liked or disliked, determining the views of your ideas now? If free will served you and all experiences perceived by you well in the past, is that not the reason you agree to it? Doesn't that mean that reason is what determined you to have the idea of free will? It's seems like Spinoza's right...God is everything and everything is existence, which is nothing more than an infinite causality.

But, this infinite causality means, in essence, that there is no such thing as free will(E1P32)...Which means that the thoughts you have right now, were determined before you thought them(E2P48 and E2P49)...and that God, the eternal Nature, or infinite existence, infinite network of forces, etc., is the infinite cause(E2P40)...It determines our thoughts. This means that God is also not bipartisan toward humans, as every cause, every person, every thought, every action, everything is equal in the flux, and all contribute to the eternal balance of existence. Which means eternity is now, it is existence as we know it forever infinitely going both forward and backward, up and down, etc. We tend to think ourselves special or in the image of God literally, but this only due to our limited, biased, and finite scope. We are in the image of God, but so is a pile of dead rotting mice carcasses, an asteroid field, a lovestruck teenager, any idea, force, body...anything that we can't conceive of as we can only know extension and ideas; as they all contribute to the infinite causality which is the image of God.

Then what is freedom? Freedom is the understanding of the necessity of God's causality, so as to understand the consequences of what must happen. He likens this to an arm full of gangrene. If you know it must be cut off to save your life, and you understand why and accept that, you will be free; if you deny it, then you will be bounded by the gangrene and your own mind. It's understanding and acceptance of everyone, everything, every "evil" and every "good"...freedom is pure acceptance and understanding, to point that it becomes intuitive (like Bruce Lee's conception of an attack becoming instinctive). You gain the acceptance through learning about the causality of God, through understanding, therefore can accept without bias. Therefore, Ethics are the necessity of the infinite causaulity, Nature, God, existence, whatever you want to call it. The ethics of Existence supercede the ethics of finite human judgement, therefore, Nature's ethics are the whatever must be the case necessarily, nothing more nothing less. This is so hard to believe, so hard to swallow, hard to even wrap the mind around, me being bipartisan to human well being, but as Spinoza said, "All things are as hard as they are rare."

Anyone in this group that is even the slightest bit openminded to a radically different mode of thought should read Spinoza. He was the biggest influence to Einstein's thought and belief system, which consequently led quite directly into his special relativity theory. I'm sure I butchered this magnificent man's work, but my professor has the entire book reprinted on this site:


Thanks for reading this...it kept the universe together:)

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Monday, May 1st, 2006
5:10 pm - Belarus: "The last dictatorship of Europe"? Chernobyl socium? Postsoviet museum? Future of Russia?
guralyuk_en Review of my book

Review of the book United Nation: The Phenomenon of Belarus by Yury Shevtsov,
Eurasian Geography and Economics, 2006,Read more...Collapse )

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Monday, April 24th, 2006
2:21 am - "Scientists find brain cells linked to choice"


Thought this was relevant...

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Monday, April 10th, 2006
12:11 am - soft determinism: thoughts? suggestions?

I'm not well read on soft determinism so could someone point me in the right direction.

I'm looking for a soft determinist view that still defines free will as "ability to do otherwise" and argues that it coexists with determinism.

Also, could someone please suggest for me readings that criticise Hume's view on soft determinism?

I could be misunderstanding Hume, but I feel as if he (and probably many other soft determinisms) are actively seeking ways of proving that we are still responsible for our own actions. Is this a problematic method of proving compatibility?

(a very confused first year form the University of Sydney)

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Friday, February 24th, 2006
11:51 am - Possible Worlds and Free Will

This is a (very) short version of a problem I am working on currently. I believe it may aid in understanding free will discussions (but I have been wrong before, so who knows.)

There is another way of interpreting the classical dilemma regarding freedom of the will, in terms of possible worlds. I think that this interpretation is worth pursuing:

If determinism is true (of @, the actual world), then @ is the only member of the set of physically possible worlds; there is, at no point, a "branching" of events in the history of @. Without any branching of any sort, we cannot be said to have choices. (I'm aware that this looks suspiciously like PAP, but I'm hoping that distinction between PAP and this model are somewhat evident.)

If indeterminism is true, then there are branching points where there shouldn't be (including our actions); our "choices" would then appear to be random. (I'm thinking of an example used by Robert Kane about the woman deliberating between vacationing in Colorado or Hawaii.)

I think that compatibilism cannot work simply because the existence of "branching points" is vital to free will. My question is, what attempts have been made by compatibilists to counter this model (other than disregarding it as irrelevant)? I know that there are libertarian accounts of countering their issue. Also, from what I've seen, compatibilists are naturalists/physicalists/materialists. Is this always the case? If it is, then the model above certainly offers no way out, I think.

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Thursday, February 16th, 2006
4:20 pm - New me...

I believe determinism is a necessary consequence of causality.

Free will seems to be a contradiction in terms. Will is a determined quality, the factor involving me and who I am, my preferences and outlook--all which come from my collected experience, filtered through my genetic makeup. Free seems to demand that something outside of me makes my choices, which means it wouldn't be my will at all.

Otherwise, I have to accept that some part of my being is acausal, which is not possible.

I think that we have volition, which is clear, and that it is, necessarily, ours, and it's as free as possible, and as free as we need, insofar as it's ours. How could it be otherwise?

kentox seems to have a fairly difficult argument against determinism, though I am convinced it isn't sound (though perhaps valid). [Please refrain from taking the debate directly to his journal, unless you absolutely must; I post his argument here only to generate some in-group responses, not to heckle him.]

What do you lot think?

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Saturday, December 24th, 2005
2:33 pm - You = Closed System?

These questions seem absurd for me to ask, but I am compelled. I guess this is for the non-determinists out there (if there be such):

Does anyone think that any aspect of their self (or anything related to the self) is a truly closed system?
Do you think there is any "part" of your self that does not change?
Do you think there is any "read-only" part, any part that produces output but accepts no input of any kind?
Do you think there is any thing that - when viewed from any possible perspective or at any level - originates in you?

I may have to wait until Monday to follow up on this.

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Friday, December 23rd, 2005
3:43 pm - DiY Purpose?

Questions for those (the straw men?) who say something like, Life has no intrinsic purpose, so I will make/decide my own:

Has anyone ever chosen? Anyone made their purpose? Have you decided? If so, may I ask what it is? Is it a constant? Or does it change with each new impulse?

On what basis (do you/did you) decide? Any? Do you think the universe ulimately "chooses" for you? If so, what would that imply?

I am genuinely curious. I used to say it myself...but being a determinist (for all intents and purposes) it is difficult for me to feel it now.

Cross posted to agnosticism

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3:18 am - Why is moral responsibility a problem?

Is it possible that blame & praise are (often? sometimes?) survival mechanisms? Could it be that survival mechanisms are not so easily dispensed with?

Could it be that I am a "modular" being, an aggregate of automatons? And is it possible that one "part of me", one "automaton", could logically deduce the "truth" of determinism, while another "part of me" could not (could not feel it, could not grok it, could not operate under that assumption?) And if that part of me was also a motivator of me? A "force"? A "director"? And if it was often "stronger" than the part that did get it?

"I" seem to operate on the assumption of both free will and determinism, variously or simultaneously...

Read a little more...Collapse )

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Friday, October 7th, 2005
1:08 pm - Irresponsible Us

Please comment on the potential of a this determinist philosophy and its application.


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Monday, September 5th, 2005
12:07 am - Compatibilist

Hello. I am a compatibilist. I've studied Peter van Inwagen's consequence argument and am widely read on the other literature. I've since left school, but would like to discuss the genre. After much thought, I've come away from this area of study with the idea that the problem (for incompatibilists) is that there is no really good formal thesis of determinism. Put another way, there is no suitable version of determinism that works for a formal argument (like vanInwagen's or McKay and Johnson).

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Thursday, June 30th, 2005
5:59 pm - Getting to the Core of Alternate Possibilities


Philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote a paper that was to change the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (AP) forever. AP says that one must have been able "to have done otherwise" to be morally responsible for his or her actions. Frankfurt cut to the heart of AP, paring it down by a degree. His argument is that AP is convincing to some because it sounds like coercion, that is that a person could not have done otherwise because he was somehow compelled to act as he did, for example if he or she were under "mind-control." A person could have wanted to do what he or she was forced to do, in which case he or she could be held morally responsible for the action, in Frankfurt's writing. He does cut some confusion out of the AP argument against compatibilism, but I have found that he has left a problem equal to the one he sought to rectify -- more important, in fact, because his clear argument does not solve this problem I have found. Granted, one might still be held responsible for something he or she was forced to do but wanted to do anyway. However, this is false because the person could not have wanted to do otherwise. Compatibilism is therefore not saved through Frankfurt's effort.

Harry Frankfurt's paper aiming to save compatibilism.

current mood: accomplished

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12:54 pm - new guy, first post

I'm new to this group, so just let me know if I am doing something stupid by posting the following here.

I've read over the previous posts and they are all very interesting, but I have noticed that a lot of them are discussing the works of other philosophers. While this may be the best way to debate this topic, I’d like to try a slightly different (and hopefully not less successful) approach to the debate.

I am a hard incompatibilist* (I think that is the right term). I believe that the concept of free will is incoherent. The reason I think this is because I cannot conceive of an occurrence being anything but random and/or caused. Since I do not consider random actions or caused actions to be free, I do not believe there is any free will.

As far as debate goes, I would prefer to have you (the reader) respond with what you believe is wrong with my stance and provide your arguments against mine, rather than linking to articles. If you are getting arguments from another philosopher, I would like to request that you put his/her arguments in your own words, and then link afterwards to your source rather than just providing the link for the argument.

*I think a hard incompatibilist is someone who believes that free will does not exist, but does not commit to any claims about the random/determined nature or reality. If what I have described is not a hard incompatibilist, feel free to correct me and give me a new label.

P.S. I think a post made earlier by slimstickwhead provided a link to an article that discussed the misdirected focus of free will debates. I still haven’t had time to really go over it, so hopefully slimstickwhead will respond to this with insights and arguments pertaining to that article.

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Wednesday, June 29th, 2005
4:34 pm - Robert Kane Plays with Words: a critique of an incompatibilist argument


Blah, blah, blah, says Robert Kane, in his paper on free will, REFLECTIONS ON FREE WILL, DETERMINISM AND INDETERMINISM. His nonsense is not too hard to see through.

Why I think Kane is wrongCollapse )

Kane's argument ultimately fails because there seems to be no indeterminacy beyond quantum indeterminacy, for which no one is responsible, and because the metaself, the "author," is not ultimately responsible, which Kane was aiming at. Pessimism is still king, amen.

current mood: accomplished

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Monday, June 27th, 2005
11:41 pm - Galen Strawson Interviewed

What would it be like to live according to the realization that strong free will is impossible? I would like to read more, so I'm going to support Strawson by buying his book as soon as I'm not broke anymore. Galen Strawson
I think I will try living according to the realization for a little while, like a whole day. That would be challenging. Imagine what a boss would think of me for it, if he found out -- ah, but what exactly would I do differently? That is a huge question for the future of humanity, I think.

current mood: cheerful

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