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William James was one of the most influential American psychologists and philosophers. His writings remain thought-provoking and relevant more than a century after his death. His seminal ideas range from free will, determinism, the nature of consciousness, the mechanisms responsible for our emotions, religious and spiritual experiences, psychic phenomena, and the veracity of mediumship. This chapter focuses on what is less well known, that behind the appearance of success he lived a life burdened with recurrent depression, hypochondria, and myriad physical afflictions, most of them psychosomatic in nature. His search for a career path was long and torturous. At different stages in his life, he was a frustrated artist, a reluctant physician, and a drifter. He found his calling in teaching. His lifelong search for the nature of the mind and the soul was deeply entangled with his father’s, whose tragic and accidental loss of a leg in childhood led to a relentless lifelong quest for “real” answers. The chapter also touches on Ralph Waldo Emerson, his godfather, and includes brief descriptions of William James’ famed novelist brother, Henry James, Jr., as well as his sister, Alice James, the brilliant reclusive diarist.
In this book Tobias Hoffmann studies the medieval free will debate during its liveliest period, from the 1220s to the 1320s, and clarifies its background in Aristotle, Augustine, and earlier medieval thinkers. Among the wide range of authors he examines are not only well-known thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham, but also a number of authors who were just as important in their time and deserve to be rediscovered today. To shed further light on their theories of free will, Hoffmann also explores their competing philosophical explanations of the fall of the angels, that is, the hypothesis of an evil choice made by rational beings under optimal psychological conditions. As he shows, this test case imposed limits on tracing free choices to cognition. His book provides a comprehensive account of a debate that was central to medieval philosophy and continues to occupy philosophers today.
Contemporary philosophers often talk about the difference (and conflict) between the so-called manifest and scientific images of the world, a distinction famously introduced in 1962 by Wilfrid Sellars. Sellars favoured what he termed a ‘stereoscopic’ vision of the relationship between the two images, according to which a major task of philosophy is to articulate a view of the world that simultaneously takes account of the two perspectives. Sellars’s students soon divided into two camps. One group (e.g., Patricia and Paul Churchland, Ruth Millikan, Jay Rosenberg) has taken the position that whenever a conflict arises, the scientific image trumps the manifest one. A second group (e.g., Robert Brandom, John McDowell, Richard Rorty), by contrast, thinks that certain differences between the two images actually point to some of the limits of science, especially, but not only, when it comes to social categories and phenomena. This chapter explores two examples that encapsulate the debate between the so-called right and left wings of Sellarsian thought, suggesting a renewed research programme for philosophy in general, aiming at articulating the original stereoscopic vision that defines human understanding of the world as an integration of the two images – essentially, a confluence of common sense and scientific sense.
How ontologically committal is common sense? Is the common-sense philosopher beholden to a florid ontology in which all manner of objects, substances, and processes exist and are as they appear to be to common sense, or can she remain neutral on questions about the existence and nature of many things because common sense is largely non-committal? This chapter explores and tentatively evaluates three different approaches to answering these questions. The first applies standard accounts of ontological commitment to common-sense claims. This leads to the surprising and counter-intuitive result that common sense has metaphysically heavyweight commitments. The second approach emphasizes the superficiality and locality of common-sense claims. On this approach, however, common sense comes out as almost entirely non-committal. The third approach questions the seriousness of ontological commitment as such. If ontological commitment is cheap, it becomes possible both to accept the commitments of common sense at face value and to avoid the counter-intuitive consequences of heavyweight metaphysical commitments.
One assumption underlying research on learning and memory is that behavior is lawful, determined by our environment and heredity. Examples of powerful influence include child abuse, aggression, advertising, and sexual attraction. These examples reveal how powerfully our behavior can be determined, sometimes without our knowledge, but they do not rule out the possiblity that we also possess some free will. A second assumption is that the best way to discover laws is through experiments. Experiments allow us to separate possible causes of behavior, but finding appropriate control groups can be tricky, slowing progress. Two contrasting approaches have dominated psychology, influencing what topics researchers choose to study: behaviorism and cognitive psychology. A third assumption is that studying animals can be helpful in analyzing behavior, because animal research allows greater control of environmental and genetic variables, and animal and human behavior is far more similar than once believed—as shown, for example, in the ability of chimpanzees and even birds to acquire English vocabulary. However, animal research can also raise difficult ethical issues. The chapter concludes with an introduction to some of the key forms of learning and memory that will be discussed.
This chapter argues that Providence is one of the key themes of the commentary, and examines how Calcidius (1) harmonizes Providence and fate with human free will through a notion of hypothetical necessity; and (2) refutes determinist positions, among which the Stoic view.
Agency refers to the human capacity to choose, initiate, and control actions to influence events in the world. The experience of agency is fundamental to our sense of self but may be altered in certain neurological conditions and forms of psychopathology. In this chapter, we review recent work in cognitive neuroscience that shows how agency depends on sensorimotor loops between the body and the environment as well as higher-order processes of attribution and interpretation. The sensorimotor loops that contribute to the sense of agency and ownership of the body and its actions can be manipulated in laboratory experiments to give rise to startling illusions like being out of one’s body, having a rubber hand, or controlling random events. Religious experiences like spirit possession and dissociative symptoms like conversion disorder may depend on attributing action to agencies other than the self. Even everyday actions depend on interpretive processes that draw from cultural affordances and ontologies as well as social and political structures. Embodied experience grounds to the sense of agency, but culturally mediated attributions can alter bodily experience. Far from being simply a consequence of individual cognition or ability, therefore, agency is rooted in ongoing engagement with the social–cultural world.
There is a common misconception that our genomes - all unique, except for those in identical twins - have the upper hand in controlling our destiny. The latest genetic discoveries, however, do not support that view. Although genetic variation does influence differences in various human behaviours to a greater or lesser degree, most of the time this does not undermine our genuine free will. Genetic determinism comes into play only in various medical conditions, notably some psychiatric syndromes. Denis Alexander here demonstrates that we are not slaves to our genes. He shows how a predisposition to behave in certain ways is influenced at a molecular level by particular genes. Yet a far greater influence on our behaviours is our world-views that lie beyond science - and that have an impact on how we think the latest genetic discoveries should, or should not, be applied. Written in an engaging style, Alexander's book offers tools for understanding and assessing the latest genetic discoveries critically.
Chapter 3 considers the work of two Dominicans, Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. Albert placed humans at the top of a hierarchy. He saw many similarities between animals and humans, the likeness diminishing with every step down the hierarchy. Although a hard boundary between humans and animals remained, it was just one of many that divided animals into categories, the pygmy from the human, the monkey from the pygmy, and so on. In the Summa theologiae Aquinas consistently stressed differences between humans and animals, but also noted significant similarities. Even if they could not grasp universals, for example, some animals could nevertheless think generally about types of other animal. Aquinas’s earlier work, the Summa contra gentiles, was especially imaginative in the way it explored the relationship between similarity and difference. Within the hierarchy of being, for example, he showed how difference might be generated by similarities in a variety of ways. Aquinas took an entirely different approach, however, when he set aside every aspect of the human which was in any way similar to the animal, concluding that contemplation of the truth was the sole feature that defined the human absolutely.
Chapter 1 demonstrates that in his De legibus William of Auvergne emphasised the differences between animals and humans, regarding them chiefly as tools. God used them to shape human behaviour, both by demanding sacrifice and by granting them symbolic meaning. Demons used them in natural magic. Humans used them as valuable and sometimes necessary property in pursuit of survival, and to ensure proper relations with God. In the De universo, however, William noted significant similarities between animals and humans. Some animals knew and thought in very similar ways to humans. The power of their wills was similar to that of humans. These similarities were most likely to receive attention when William discussed providence or when he analysed animals in order to work out the nature of higher beings on the grounds that if something of lower standing in the hierarchy of being had a power or quality, beings higher up must also possess that same power or quality, though to a greater degree and perhaps with other powers in addition. This last approach meant that William treated animals as a profoundly valuable learning resource, one predicated on the existence of meaningful similarities across the boundaries that structured the hierarchy.
Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy was one of the philosophical works best known to Jean de Meun, and later in life, after he had written his part of the Roman de la Rose, he would translate it into French. The Consolation is not, however, a straightforward philosophical treatise, but a work that uses a variety of literary forms (dialogue; the alternation of prose and verse; personification) in order, arguably, to convey a much more complex position than the ostensible conclusion of the argument made by Lady Philosophy. This complexity is due especially to Boethius’s reaction to what I call ‘the Problem of Paganism’. Although the Consolation was widely read, closely studied and imitated or used in a whole variety of ways from the ninth century onwards, most of its medieval readers were not sensitive to these complexities. This contribution will investigate whether the Roman de la Rose shows that Jean de Meun is an exception to the rule. It will do so by looking at the relation between his part of the poem, the Consolation and the Problem of Paganism.
The first chapter focuses on early Muʿtazilite and Ashʿarite theologians. It examines the birth and development of Ashʿarite occasionalism as a response to the Muʿtazilite theological project which aims to preserve the intelligibility of the world and God and, to this end, is ready to accept the idea of necessity in the world and, even, in God. The modus operandi of Ashʿarite theological project in this context remains to preserve the divine will and freedom. This, then, leads to construction of, what I call, a theology of possibility. It is within the larger context of this debate that occasionalist theory of causality emerges as the cornerstone of Ashʿarite theology of possibility. The chapter starts with an examination of early Ashʿarite and Muʿtazilite discussions about the relationship of the divine attributes to God. It then shows how these discussions led to the emergence of Ashʿarite occasionalism. Finally, it explores how the occasionalist perspective provided the basis for Ashʿarite convictions on other important cosmological and theological discussions.
The introduction presents main research questions, key concepts, and methodology. It introduces some of the reasons that make questions about causality and freedom fundamentally important for any religious tradition in general and Islamic tradition in particular. It discusses the reasons for the selection of thinkers examined in the book. It also provides short introductions to Platonic, Neo-Platonic, Aristotelian, and occasionalist accounts of causality to help the reader better understand the spectrum of ideas about causality and freedom examined in this book.
In this volume, Ozgur Koca offers a comprehensive survey of Islamic accounts of causality and freedom from the medieval to the modern era, as well as contemporary relevance. His book is an invitation for Muslims and non-Muslims to explore a rich, but largely forgotten, aspect of Islamic intellectual history. Here, he examines how key Muslim thinkers, such as Ibn Sina, Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Arabi, Suhrawardi, Jurjani, Mulla Sadra and Nursi, among others, conceptualized freedom in the created order as an extension of their perception of causality. Based on this examination, Koca identifies and explores some of the major currents in the debate on causality and freedom. He also discusses the possible implications of Muslim perspectives on causality for contemporary debates over religion and science.
We propose a compatibilist theory of free will in the tradition of naturalized philosophy that attempts to: 1) provide a synthesis of a variety of well-known theories, capable of addressing problems of the latter; 2) account for the fact that free will comes in degrees; and 3) interface with neurobiology. We argue that free will comes in degrees, and that these degrees vary with the agent's capacity to make assumptions and use theories. Our model, then, highlights that free-willed actions are consciously monitored by the agent, through beliefs, assumptions, and ultimately theories — hence, the CMT model (for Conscious-through-Monitoring-through-Theories).
Theorists of community cling to one form of civic friendship—associations—as if no society-wide friendship could exist. Small groups may be friendlier, but they fall short of being truly civic when they fail to guarantee individual rights. John Locke’s liberalism is safer because it bases rights on property. Locke’s theory is also descriptively accurate because it still operates today, under cover of newer theories, for example in the beliefs of electoral majorities that earners deserve to keep the fruits of their labor and that “paying one’s own way” is dignified. Yet communitarians are correct that property rights obscure civic friendship. Aristotle’s psychology of commercial exchange builds on Lockean property, showing how money is a marker for honor, the civic analogue of love. Societies in which workers are paid a fair wage are friendly societies; where this does not occur, society is full of malcontents. Workers feel dishonored by low pay. Similarly, societies that honor civic patrons enjoy a concord that is like friendship; where public service is not honored, the wealthy desire revolution, according to Aristotle. Money and honor tie citizens to the larger society.
The question as to whether people with an addiction have control (and to what extent) over their addiction, and voluntarily decide to use substances is an ongoing source of controversy in the context of research on addiction, health policy and clinical practice. We describe and discuss a set of five challenges for further research into voluntariness (definition[s], measurement and study tools, first person perspectives, contextual understandings, and connections to broader frameworks) based on our own research experiences and those of others.
In this chapter I outline what I take to be a solution to a problem about free will denial and the justification of punishment pointed out by Saul Smilansky. Smilansky argues that free will deniers must acknowledge that some institution of punishment is necessary to maintain law and order, but since criminals do not deserve to be punished, it is unjust to punish them, and we therefore have a duty to compensate them. Since this is a great injustice, we must compensate them very heavily, in fact so heavily that the institution of punishment will cease to deter and will instead become an incentive to commit crime. Previous responses to Smilansky’s “practical reductio” argument by Neil Levy, Derk Pereboom, and Gregg Caruso have emphasized consequentialist moral reasons. I advocate a deontological social contract approach to punishment that draws on Kantian and Rawlsian notions of treating criminals as ends by respecting their rational consent to punishment.
This chapter considers the practical implications of free will skepticism and discusses recent empirical work that has just begun to investigate the matter. It argues that there are good philosophical and empirical reasons for thinking that belief in free will, rather than providing the pragmatic benefits many claim, actually has a dark side; i.e., it is too often used to justify punitive excess in criminal justice, to encourage treating people in severe and demeaning ways, and to excuse and perpetuate social and economic inequalities. After addressing recent empirical findings in social psychology that purport to show that diminishing one’s belief in free will increases antisocial behavior – findings that are overblown and questionable – the chapter discusses contrary findings in moral and political psychology that reveal interesting and troubling correlations between people’s free will beliefs and their other moral, religious, and political beliefs. It concludes that we would be better off without the notions of free will and just deserts.
Recent free will denialism (FWD) tends to be optimistic, claiming that not only will the rejection of the belief in free will and moral responsibility not make matters dreadful but that we are indeed better off without them. I address the denialist claim that FWD has the philosophical resources to effectively safeguard human rights and respect for persons in the context of punishment, even without belief in free will, moral responsibility, and desert. I raise seven reasons for doubt concerning the ability of FWD to maintain deontological constraints. Together they present a strong case for doubting the optimism of FWD.