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Columbia University Press
Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language, and Political Power

Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language, and Political Power

by John Searle
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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231137539
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 09/17/2008
Series: Columbia Themes in Philosophy
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,273,166
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

John Searle is Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of sixteen books, including Speech Acts; Expression and Meaning; Intentionality; Minds, Brains, and Science; The Rediscovery of the Mind; The Construction of Social Reality; Rationality in Action; and Mind: An Introduction. His works have been translated into twenty-one languages, and in 2004, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

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Read an Excerpt

How can we treat the problem of free will as a neurobiological problem? If free will is a genuine feature of the world and not merely an illusion, then it must have a neurobiological reality; there must be some feature of the brain that realizes free will. If consciousness is a higher level, or system, feature of the brain caused by the behavior of lower-level elements, such as neurons and synapses, what would the behavior of the neurons and the synapses have to be like if the conscious experience of free will were to be neurobiologically real?

The persistence of the traditional free will problem in philosophy seems to me something of a scandal. After all these centuries of writing about free will, it does not seem to me that we have made very much progress. I cannot give you a solution to the problem of free will but I hope to be at least able to state the problem in a precise enough form so that we can see what possible solutions would look like. What would the world, specifically our brains, be like if determinism were true and what would the world, specifically our brains, be like if determinism were false? In order to make any progress, we have to divide the huge problem, as I have done, into sets of smaller problems, and those indeed into even smaller problems so that we can answer them in a piecemeal fashion. Our strategy is to divide and conquer: divide these questions into questions of a more manageable form, and then work on them one at a time.-from the book

Table of Contents

Introduction. Philosophy and the Basic Facts1. Free Will as a Problem in Neurobiology2. Social Ontology and Political PowerIndex

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What People are Saying About This

Joelle Proust

This book is a short but powerful presentation of views of the author... [it] includes interesting new arguments and is very useful... as an excellent and exceptionally clear summary of the free-will debate.

Joelle Proust, director of research, Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris

Eric Kandel

This small book speaks volumes. It shows why John Searle is the most widely read of philosophers of mind today and why he has a particularly large following among brain scientists. Searle here illustrates that he owes his success to two fundamental talents rare among philosophers. First, he is eminently readable. He is not simply interested in exposing his vast erudition but in explaining in straightforward entertaining prose what the issues of free will, language, and brain sciences are about. Second, Searle is eminently empirical. He does not see philosophy of mind as a rarefied discipline but one that is continuous with physics, biology, and brain science. Searle sees the task of philosophy as posing problems in precise enough terms to permit of an empirical, scientific solution.

These two features are brilliantly in evidence in this marvelous book. But what makes these lectures particularly inviting for readers not yet addicted to Searle is that he provides here—for the first time—a broad introduction to the complete Searle. He combines in a thin volume the two major interests of his career: his early focus on language and his current focus on consciousness and free will. This is an irresistible treat for both the uninitiated and the cognoscenti.

Eric Kandel, Nobel Laureate, Columbia University

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