Friday, May 27, 2005


Maybe Will Wilkinson needs to re-read his Thomas Nagel? Will discusses luck (not so much of a moral kind as of a metaphysical kind) here, in an interesting, albeit misleading, post about being Will.

Wilkinson, despite his best efforts, does get "thornily metaphysical" in his argument, and it is true that we can hardly disagree with him in his initial point. It is true that if something were different about a person, then they would not be that same person. For instance, if Will were a diabetic, he would not be Will, at least not in the same way he is Will now. A point not addressed in the post, but one that should be mentioned, is that time is an additional factor. Will is not a diabetic now, but he could develop diabetes (knock on wood) and still be Will; he would be Will at a different time.

It is true that his parents' actions were performed with the express purpose of creating in Will a certain work ethic or type of personality, and this is not luck. What IS luck, though, is the fact that Will's parents were cosmically matched up with Will. Here he reaches that thorny metaphysic; Will does not exist a priori, he only follows from his parents. If they were not his parents, he would not be Will. Will must be, of course, Will, and he could not be Will had he been born to different parents.

I'm not expressly disagreeing with Wilkinson, as the structure of definitions he's create has made it impossible to do so. What I can say, though, is that there is no real reason why I exist as a male, middle-class, while American while others exist as poor, oppressed, Indonesian women. Wilkinson's reason is that I could not exist as anything else, which is true, and yet I'm still disinclined to leave it at that, as anyone could be something else, had circumstances been different.

Thornily metaphysical, I know. Sorry.


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