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Free Will

Mark Balaguer

In our daily life, it really <I>seems</I> as though we have free will, that what we do from moment to moment is determined by conscious decisions that we freely make. You get up from the couch, you go for a walk, you eat chocolate ice cream. It seems that we're in control of actions like these; if we are, then we have free will. But in recent years, some have argued that free will is an illusion. The neuroscientist (and best-selling author) Sam Harris and the late Harvard psychologist Daniel Wegner, for example, claim that certain scientific findings disprove free will. In this engaging and accessible volume in the Essential Knowledge series, the philosopher Mark Balaguer examines the various arguments and experiments that have been cited to support the claim that human beings don't have free will. He finds them to be overstated and misguided.Balaguer discusses determinism, the view that every physical event is predetermined, or completely caused by prior events. He describes several philosophical and scientific arguments against free will, including one based on Benjamin Libet's famous neuroscientific experiments, which allegedly show that our conscious decisions are caused by neural events that occur before we choose. He considers various religious and philosophical views, including the philosophical pro-free-will view known as compatibilism. Balaguer concludes that the anti-free-will arguments put forward by philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists simply don't work. They don't provide any good reason to doubt the existence of free will. But, he cautions, this doesn't necessarily mean that we have free will. The question of whether we have free will remains an open one; we simply don't know enough about the brain to answer it definitively.

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Intellectual Property Strategy

John Palfrey

How a flexible and creative approach to intellectual property can help an organization accomplish goals ranging from building market share to expanding an industry.

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Paradox

Margaret Cuonzo

Thinkers have been fascinated by paradox since long before Aristotle grappled with Zeno's. In this volume in The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Margaret Cuonzo explores paradoxes and the strategies used to solve them. She finds that paradoxes are more than mere puzzles but can prompt new ways of thinking. A paradox can be defined as a set of mutually inconsistent claims, each of which seems true. Paradoxes emerge not just in salons and ivory towers but in everyday life. (An Internet search for "paradox" brings forth a picture of an ashtray with a "no smoking" symbol inscribed on it.) Proposing solutions, Cuonzo writes, is a natural response to paradoxes. She invites us to rethink paradoxes by focusing on strategies for solving them, arguing that there is much to be learned from this, regardless of whether any of the more powerful paradoxes is even capable of solution. Cuonzo offers a catalog of paradox-solving strategies -- including the Preemptive-Strike (questioning the paradox itself), the Odd-Guy-Out (calling one of the assumptions into question), and the You-Can't-Get-There-from-Here (denying the validity of the reasoning). She argues that certain types of solutions work better in some contexts than others, and that as paradoxicality increases, the success of certain strategies grows more unlikely. Cuonzo shows that the processes of paradox generation and solution proposal are interesting and important ones. Discovering a paradox leads to advances in knowledge: new science often stems from attempts to solve paradoxes, and the concepts used in the new sciences lead to new paradoxes. As Niels Bohr wrote, "How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress."

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