A college-level sourcebook and textbook on the problem of free will and determinism. Contains a history of the free will problem, a taxonomy of current free will positions, the standard argument against free will, the physics, biology, and neuroscience of free will, the most plausible and practical libertarian solution of the problem, and reviews of the work of the leading determinist Ted Honderich, the leading libertarian Robert Kane, the leading compatibilist Daniel Dennett, and the agnostic Alfred Mele. 480 pages, 40 figures, 15 sidebars, glossary, bibliography, index.
The Nook edition has page numbers anchored in the text from the original print edition and an interactive index that lets you jump from the index entry to individual pages. The original print table of contents is interactive, as is the glossary. A Nook hierarchical table of contents provides best navigation.
John Searle called it a scandal that after all the centuries of writing about free will, we have not made much progress. According to Doyle, a more serious scandal today is that academic philosophers are convincing many young students that they are deterministic biological machines with only a “compatibilist free will.”
Doyle recounts the many different forms of determinism that have been used over the centuries to deny human freedom and responsibility. To end the scandal, philosophers need to teach a two-stage model of free will and creativity, one that Doyle finds in the work of a dozen philosophers and scientists going back to William James’ talk to Harvard Divinity School students in 1884.
The Doyle/James two-stage model reconciles free will with indeterminism, just as David Hume reconciled freedom of action with determinism (and R.E.Hobart reconciled free will with determination).
The free-will model is actually triply compatible; compatible with determinism (of the Hume and especially Hobart kind), compatible with indeterminism (since William James), and compatible with biological evolution.
Doyle calls this “comprehensive compatibilism,” to encourage compatibilists who won’t have to change their self-descriptions, but just broaden their definition of compatibilism to include his limited indeterminism and the evolutionary connection with neurobiology.
The two-stage model emerges naturally as a consequence of evolution. It is not a metaphysical free will, a mystery or gift of God. It is rather a biophysical free will that evolved by natural selection from lower animals, which Martin Heisenberg has shown have a two-stage “behavioral freedom.” They “originate” actions that are not pre-determined by the laws of nature and conditions immediately before their “decisions.”
The first “free” stage is indeterministic. In humans the second “will” stage is normally adequately determined, by reasons and motives, desires and feelings, by character and values. But an agent can also “flip a coin” between indifferent alternatives, so the two-stage model also supports undetermined liberties at the moment of choice. Undetermined liberties are a subset of all possible actions that are consistent with character and values, etc.
Our thoughts are free. Our actions are willed.
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About the Author
He is currently an Associate in the Harvard University Department of Astronomy faculty.
Doyle wrote MacPublisher, the first desktop publishing program, in 1984 as a tool to help him write this book, but it had to wait for twenty-seven years to get finished. Doyle used the Adobe InDesign desktop publishing program (with Illustrator and Photoshop for the figures) to design and produce the book himself.