Rationality + Consciousness = Free Will


In recent years, philosophical discussions of free will have focused largely on whether or not free will is compatible with determinism. In this challenging book, David Hodgson takes a fresh approach to the question of free will, contending that close consideration of human rationality and human consciousness shows that together they give us free will, in a robust and indeterministic sense. In particular, they give us the capacity to respond appositely to feature-rich gestalts of conscious experiences, in ways ...

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Rationality + Consciousness = Free Will

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In recent years, philosophical discussions of free will have focused largely on whether or not free will is compatible with determinism. In this challenging book, David Hodgson takes a fresh approach to the question of free will, contending that close consideration of human rationality and human consciousness shows that together they give us free will, in a robust and indeterministic sense. In particular, they give us the capacity to respond appositely to feature-rich gestalts of conscious experiences, in ways that are not wholly determined by laws of nature or computational rules. The author contends that this approach is consistent with what science tells us about the world; and he considers its implications for our responsibility for our own conduct, for the role of retribution in criminal punishment, and for the place of human beings in the wider scheme of things.

Praise for David Hodgson's previous work, The Mind Matters

"magisterial...It is balanced, extraordinarily thorough and scrupulously fair-minded; and it is written in clear, straightforward, accessible prose." —Michael Lockwood, Times Literary Supplement

"an excellent contribution to the literature. It is well written, authoritative, and wonderfully wide-ranging. ... This account of quantum theory ... will surely be of great value. ... On the front cover of the paper edition of this book Paul Davies is quoted as saying that this is "a truly splendid and provocative book". In writing this review I have allowed myself to be provoked, but I am happy to close by giving my endorsement to this verdict in its entirety!" —Euan Squires, Journal of Consciousness Studies

"well argued and extremely important book." —Sheena Meredith, New Scientist

"His reconstructions and explanations are always concise and clear." —Jeffrey A Barrett, The Philosophical Review

"In this large-scale and ambitious work Hodgson attacks a modern orthodoxy. Both its proponents and its opponents will find it compelling reading." —J. R. Lucas, Merton College, Oxford

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rationality + Consciousness = Free Will offers much to tantalize any serious student of philosophy."—Brian D. Earp, Journal of Consciousness Studies

"It is a wonderful book, and I believe it explains convincingly the essential role of consciousness in the causation of thought and action. While I am also drawn to Hodgson's account of free will, there still seems to me to be a persistent mystery in the pure agency that must be at the heart of any incompatibilist account. But Hodgson has certainly shown how this element can be located in a complex system with other, traditionally causal factors. The book ends with reflections on the Big Picture of our place in the universe that is consonant with his theory of consciousness and free will. I am very happy to find in his writings the clear and convincing expression of an outlook that seems so right."—Thomas Nagel, New York University

"Theorists concerned with the role of consciousness in human judgment and action production or in event-causal libertarianism will no doubt find much of interest in Hodgson's latest book."—Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"David Hodgson is a distinguished jurist as well as a philosopher of considerable depth and breadth. In this book he develops an innovative account of plausible reasoning which cannot be wholly accounted for in terms of algorithmic rules and an equally innovative account of consciousness, which he argues can affect reasoning and decision-making in ways that cannot be fully accounted for in terms of laws of nature. These ideas are then employed in the development of an original account of free will of an indeterministic event-causal kind; and they are applied perceptively to a wide range of other important philosophical topics, including rationality, responsibility, value, morality, law and criminal punishment. The book is written with admirable clarity and is informed by knowledge of quantum physics and contemporary neuroscience as well as of philosophy. It should be read by anyone interested in current debates about free will." —Robert Kane, University of Texas at Austin

"... a thoughtful and lucidly composed set of reflections on consciousness, free will, and the retributive justification of punishment, which together form a coherent and in certain respects original position of philosophical importance." —Derk Pereboom, Cornell University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199845309
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/4/2012
  • Series: Philosophy of Mind Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,238,472
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Hodgson recently retired as a Judge of Appeal of the New South Wales Supreme Court, after a long legal career. During that career, he maintained a keen interest and involvement in philosophy. He published two previous philosophical books through Oxford University Press, namely Consequences of Utilitarianism and The Mind Matters, and also numerous philosophical articles on consciousness, free will and plausible reasoning.

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Table of Contents

The problem of free will and responsibility
Haldane's argument
How I will proceed
Can I be certain that I exist?
The need for language
Experiences and the external world
Foundational beliefs
Relativity of truth?
Fallacies and biases
Stich's argument
A legal example
Core assertions about truth and rationality
Formal and informal reasoning
Bayes' theorem
Illustration of Bayes' theorem
Levels of cognitive processes
Core assertions about plausible reasoning
Dual aspects
Characteristic features of conscious experiences
Qualia and unity
Neural correlates of consciousness
The efficacy of conscious experiences
Three questions
Rule-determined processes do not need consciousness
Core assertions about consciousness and decision-making
The argument outlined
Laws and rules
The Game of Life and computation
Tricks of consciousness
Some further thoughts
Core assertions about gestalts and rules
Evolutionary origins
Aesthetic judgments
Plausible reasoning
Core assertions about how gestalts promote rationality
A lawful universe
Quantum mechanics
The free will theorem
Explanation of the theorem
Time and the block universe
Core assertions about science and determinism
Science and the brain
A general picture
The Cartesian theatre
The scale and nature of quantum effects
Libet, Gazzaniga and Wegner
Core assertions about neuroscience and conscious choice
Will and responsibility
Comparison with Kane
Assessment of compatibilism
Does luck swallow everything?
More about luck
Core assertions about indeterministic free will
A different philosophical approach
Natural imperatives
Absolute imperatives
Prima facie imperatives
No reasonable irreconcilable differences
Why be moral?
Good, evil and beauty
Community practices and laws
Legal systems
Capacity for reasonable value judgments
Core assertions about value judgments
Responses to wrong conduct
Australian criminal law
Retribution as a restriction on State compulsion
Why retribution should be maintained
Philosophical bases for retribution
The future of retribution
Core assertions about responsibility and retribution
The scientific account
An experienced universe
Constraint, empowerment and guidance
Religious belief: a subject for rational enquiry
A value-embedded universe
Where do we come from?
Where are we going?
Can more specific beliefs be supported?
Potential for evil and good
Core assertions about the big picture
Abraham and Isaac
The Passover
The Promised Land
The New Testament

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