Menu
Donate
SIGN IN

Will Fraker

Associate Editor, Aeon

Will Fraker is an associate editor at Aeon. He studied a mixture of philosophy, biology, and social & critical theory at Wesleyan University. When he’s not thinking about these things, he’s probably playing music or climbing rocks. If you have any questions about re-publishing or syndicating Aeon’s content, he is your guy.

Written by Will Fraker

Edited by Will Fraker



Recent Comments

Not all things wise and good are philosophy

Will Fraker

I see the author’s distinction between philosophy and other traditions of thought and inquiry as non-hierarchical. It seems that some readers are interpreting it as an exclusionary, derisive take on those thinkers that don’t fit under the Greek conception of ‘philosophy’. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think those critiques, by assuming philosophy takes a privileged role, are actually examples of the very western-centric perspectives they’re attempting to undermine. I don’t see Tampio as privileging ‘philosophy’ as the pinnacle of all thought, but rather pointing out that it’s a a historically-specific line of inquiry with roots in Plato. As he has responded in this conversation thread, i...

READ MORE→ See comment

Rise of the humanities

Will Fraker

I found this piece to be both encouraging and enlightening. It certainly challenges a prominent narrative with robust evidence. One small irony however, to my eyes at least, is that the statistical frame of reference used to support the claims in the piece seems like a perfect example of the anti-humanist paradigm that people argue is prevailing. The Frankfurt school, Heidegger, and others expressed great anxiety about the ways in which technological modernity would reduce people to nothing more than data points. In that light, using strict statistics to argue for the advance of the humanities seems like a self-undermining move. The humanities should be measured by their impact on a broad...

READ MORE→ See comment

Physics’s pangolin

Will Fraker

I’m quite impressed by the bold usage of Mary Douglas in this piece. Interesting to see Douglas mapped on to the categories of scientists instead of just broader categories of cultural organization. Notwithstanding the greater rigour with which these scientific categories have been created and upheld, I think the analogy actually holds. After all, science is a cultural practice in which concepts are developed through experience/observation and are upheld by their repeated use (Wertheim alludes to how are categories for GR and QM stick around because so much is dependent on them).

I am not a Platonist, but I do think that physicists must be moving towards some deeper understanding, ...

READ MORE→ See comment

Is this life real?

Will Fraker

I think this idea is entertaining to engage with, but the existence of the question is less epistemologically challenging than it is indicative of deeper anxieties we have about our autonomy and the authenticity of the ‘reality’ we purport to be experiencing. It’s another way of asking, ‘does all this really mean anything?’ or ‘is there really such thing as freedom?’

But to get back to answering the question itself, I want to draw from a Daniel Dennett thought experiment that sealed the deal in my understanding of the proposition’s untenability. Dennett begins by demonstrating the sensations that are indeed possible to simulate – the vestibular signals of being lying down, the phys...

READ MORE→ See comment

Sport is not just about athleticism: beauty matters too

Will Fraker

I think that when sports are considered en masse – that is, as an entire enterprise in which players, rules, props and spectators all participate – there is no denying that beauty plays an important role. Beauty can make someone fall in love with a sport and practice it meticulously. It is part of what draws millions of fans to into packed arenas and in front their TV screens to hold their breath and gasp. The flow of a player, the synchrony of a team – it can be intoxicating.

Of course, beauty is not a necessary ingredient in success, and it can occasionally be a hindrance. I think of football or basketball players whose flashy, stylish handles can run them into corners. ...

READ MORE→ See comment

And their eyes glazed over

Will Fraker

I think that technology, broadly speaking, has absolutely enhanced my focus on personal pursuits. It has opened my eyes to what’s out there, allowing me to find inspiration, which is often a pre-requisite for focus in my book. That being said, I think the particular patterns of addiction that are cultivated by technology, or perhaps social media more specifically, pose a real threat. It comes down to the difference between short-term rewards and delayed gratification. The focus it requires to absorb information and produce things of value requires the ability to see the broader picture and recognize the value of holding off on instant rewards in the pursuit of more slow-burning ends. I fi...

READ MORE→ See comment

Who owns the earth?

Will Fraker

Private property threatens the environment so long as it allows the ‘mine’ to eclipse the ‘ours’… What I love about this essay is how clearly it shows that private property and commons ownership are not independent and incongruent models – they only become incongruent when private property is treated as a sufficient model unto itself. In other words, private property threatens the commons when it is the only lens through which we view the land… it’s either mine or theirs or hers, etc. as opposed to the ‘mine’ depending on what we share.

It seems to me that this is what Malchik sees as the problem with Hardin’s seminal piece. It’s not really the tragedy of the commons, it’s the trag...

READ MORE→ See comment

Why we need to stop thinking so much about climate change

Will Fraker

This is an important re-framing, but I don’t think tackling climate change and keeping our eyes on local causes of degradation is an either/or, nor do I think that that’s what the author is arguing. Instead, I think it calls for a re-grounding of our broader environmental concerns in more local action, which I absolutely agree with. It is a sort of double think, seeing the problems in the foreground while understanding the way they feed into a bigger issue. After all, there is a good chance that efforts to promote local ecosystem health will also have a positive impact on both mitigating climate change and strengthening ecosystems to be more resilient to its effects.

I’m having tro...

READ MORE→ See comment

Epic fails

Will Fraker

New observations, experiments or ideas will always carve out new implications that are in need of corroboration. In this sense, one cycle of the scientific method is necessarily incomplete. These gaps that are left when implications are fully parsed out are quick to be filled by new theories that are nested within the broader paradigm, and it is usually these theories inside theories that await corroboration (i.e. Higgs Boson). When something such as Vulcan fails to be corroborated we should be okay letting it go without having to say goodbye to the Newtonian paradigm as a whole. In other words, we need to be comfortable with the gaps that are left by strong theories, but more willing to ...

READ MORE→ See comment

I am not a story

Will Fraker

Stories are certainly a profound tool for grasping the world, perhaps our only one, for better or for worse. I love how Ball’s article explores this briefly in the context of science – selfish gene theory & multi-world cosmologies all depend on extremely specific narrative structures/assumptions, which are not necessarily required by the maths, as he says. Perhaps even more so, our way of understanding neuroscience falls into this trap. X region in the brain causes Y to happen in the body, or b neuron sends signals to c which inhibits h which disinhibits q, etc… The instinct for ‘storifying’, as it were, may be a byproduct of neurological architecture and it leads to an interpretation...

READ MORE→ See comment

The interrogator’s soul

Will Fraker

I find it to be somewhat ironic and insightful that the ‘rebels’ are the ones that are less likely to inflict torture on another human. The tendency to mould oneself to a social environment is apparent all throughout life, so it makes some evolutionary sense that the self-interest of ‘fitting in’ would trump the ethical burden of harming another, especially when that other is invisible and unknown. But the irony of the ethical rebel reveals that the foundation of rebelliousness may not necessarily be self-interest but social distinction, because if it were the former then following the rules would certainly be the way forward. Interesting that both rebels and rule followers are defined re...

READ MORE→ See comment

What if?

Will Fraker

I love the way this article emphasizes how the process of writing history is central to the way history is viewed. It is all to easy to assume that history is merely the reproduction of objective events, but that is an extremely dangerous assumption to have. Just like with the natural sciences, in fact even more so, the perspective of the writer, their social context and all the power dynamics therein influence the way the history is produced. I see how historians’ resolute commitment to primary sources is one way to resist the contamination of perspective, but even the analysis of primary documents isn’t completely objective. Of course, I don’t think counterfactuals are the only

READ MORE→ See comment