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Free Will and Consciousness
A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will
In recent decades, with advances in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, the idea that patterns of human behavior may ultimately be due to factors beyond our conscious control has increasingly gained traction and renewed interest in the age-old problem of free will. In this book, Gregg D. Caruso examines both the traditional philosophical problems long associated with the question of free will, such as the relationship between determinism and free will, as well as recent experimental and theoretical work directly related to consciousness and human agency. He argues that our best scientific theories indeed have the consequence that factors beyond our control produce all of the actions we perform and that because of this we do not possess the kind of free will required for genuine or ultimate responsibility. It is further argued that the strong and pervasive belief in free will, which the author considers an illusion, can be accounted for through a careful analysis of our phenomenology and a proper theoretical understanding of consciousness. Indeed, the primary goal of this book is to argue that our subjective feeling of freedom, as reflected in the first-person phenomenology of agentive experience, is an illusion created by certain aspects of our consciousness.
Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-7136-3 • Hardback • February 2012 •
978-0-7391-8440-0 • Paperback • May 2013 •
978-0-7391-7137-0 • eBook • February 2012 •
Philosophy / Free Will & Determinism
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / Mind & Body
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Gregg D. Caruso
is assistant professor of philosophy and Chair of the Humanities Department at Corning Community College, SUNY.
Chapter 1: The Problem of Free Will: A Brief Introduction and Outline of Position
Chapter 2: Against Libertarianism
Chapter 3: Against Compatibilism
Chapter 4: Consciousness and Free Will (I): Automaticity and the Adaptive Unconscious
Chapter 5: Consciousness and Free Will (II): Transparency, Infallibility, and the Higher-Order Thought Theory
Chapter 6: Consciousness and Free Will (III): Intentional States, Spontaneity, and Action Initiation
Chapter 7: Consciousness and Free Will (IV): Self-Consciousness and Our Sense of Agency
Free Will and Consciousness
is an effort to deal with a series of complex topics such as social and cognitive psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and their relationship with consciousness and free will in a small number of pages. . . . This book is therefore a good example of interdisciplinary research. ... Overall, this book is highly recommend for upper undergraduate courses, graduate students, and researchers. It is tightly organized. The vast amount of literature reviewed by the author makes it a good introduction to the metaphysics of free will and the debate about cognitive illusion of free will. The arguments featured were both robust and convincing with the author achieving a successful concatenation of them in order to uphold his deterministic account.
Minds & Machines
In this rather ambitious book, Gregg D. Caruso attempts to make the case for free will skepticism, arguing that our feeling of freedom is an illusion. In making his case, Caruso explores some territory often left unexplored by many philosophers working on free will. . . . a substantial portion of the book is devoted to examining the implications of recent work in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and social psychology for free will. . . . there is a lot going on in this book that should be of interest to philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists interested in the free will debate. . . . Caruso deserves praise for making a comprehensive case for free will illusionism that engages with both the recent philosophical and empirical literature on human agency.
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
This admirable book enriches the philosophical debate about free will by bringing to bear a probing discussion of consciousness along with a rigorous survey of relevant work in experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. The result is a compelling theoretical and empirical defense of determinism, which does justice as few treatments ever have to the crucial difference between genuine freedom and the mere subjective appearance of freedom. Having argued convincingly that our will is not actually free, Caruso develops a perceptive account of the conscious phenomenology that gives rise to our persistent impression that we do act freely. Anybody interested in free will, consciousness, or human agency will want to read this book.
David Rosenthal, The Graduate Center, CUNY
This is an aggressive, informative defense of hard determinism using the latest news from cognitive science. It is (almost) fair to sophisticated versions of compatibilism, and will force libertarians to face their worst fears about the subconscious antecedents of behavior. Caruso’s unusual clarity makes this an excellent book at all levels of undergraduate and graduate study, and conveys the author’s conviction that his conclusions are important.
Michael Levin, The Graduate Center, CUNY
This is an excellent book: extremely well-researched, combining first-rate skills in philosophical analysis and a detailed understanding of the wide-ranging philosophical arguments concerning free will with a thorough examination of the relevant psychological literature. . . The book makes an important contribution to the current lively discussion of free will, and it is a superb example of the effective integration of empirical research into the analysis of philosophical issues. I recommend [it] very strongly. . . This is, overall, a rigorous and remarkably thorough examination and critique of basic ideas essential to the libertarian theory of free will. It is a very important contribution to the literature, and greatly enriches the philosophical discussion through its extensive yet judicious examination of the relevant psychological research.
Bruce Waller, Youngstown State University
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