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Free Will and Moral Responsibility

Traditional philosophers approached the issues of free will and moral responsibility through conceptual analysis that seldom incorporated findings from empirical science. In recent decades, however, striking developments in psychology and neuroscience have captured the attention of many moral philosophers. This volume of Moral Psychology offers essays, commentaries, and replies by leading philosophers and scientists who explain and use empirical findings from psychology and neuroscience to illuminate old and new problems regarding free will and moral responsibility.

The contributors—who include such prominent scholars as Patricia Churchland, Daniel Dennett, and Michael Gazzaniga—consider issues raised by determinism, compatibilism, and libertarianism; epiphenomenalism, bypassing, and naturalism; naturalism; and rationality and situationism. These writings show that although science does not settle the issues of free will and moral responsibility, it has enlivened the field by asking novel, profound, and important questions.

Roy F. Baumeister, Tim Bayne, Gunnar Björnsson, C. Daryl Cameron, Hanah A. Chapman, William A. Cunningham, Patricia S. Churchland, Christopher G. Coutlee, Daniel C. Dennett, Ellen E. Furlong, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Patrick Haggard, Brian Hare, Lasana T. Harris, John-Dylan Haynes, Richard Holton, Scott A. Huettel, Robert Kane, Victoria K. Lee, Neil Levy, Alfred R. Mele, Christian Miller, Erman Misirlisoy, P. Read Montague, Thomas Nadelhoffer, Eddy Nahmias, William T. Newsome, B. Keith Payne, Derk Pereboom, Adina L. Roskies, Laurie R. Santos, Timothy Schroeder, Michael N. Shadlen, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chandra Sripada, Christopher L. Suhler, Manuel Vargas, Gideon Yaffe

(Did you hear the one about Hegel and negation?)

“A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.”—Ludwig Wittgenstein

The good news is that this book offers an entertaining but enlightening compilation of Žižekisms. Unlike any other book by Slavoj Žižek, this compact arrangement of jokes culled from his writings provides an index to certain philosophical, political, and sexual themes that preoccupy him. Žižek’s Jokes contains the set-ups and punch lines—as well as the offenses and insults—that Žižek is famous for, all in less than 200 pages.
So what’s the bad news? There is no bad news. There’s just the inimitable Slavoj Žižek, disguised as an impossibly erudite, politically incorrect uncle, beginning a sentence, “There is an old Jewish joke, loved by Derrida . . .“ For Žižek, jokes are amusing stories that offer a shortcut to philosophical insight. He illustrates the logic of the Hegelian triad, for example, with three variations of the “Not tonight, dear, I have a headache” classic: first the wife claims a migraine; then the husband does; then the wife exclaims, “Darling, I have a terrible migraine, so let’s have some sex to refresh me!” A punch line about a beer bottle provides a Lacanian lesson about one signifier. And a “truly obscene” version of the famous “aristocrats” joke has the family offering a short course in Hegelian thought rather than a display of unspeakables.

Žižek’s Jokes contains every joke cited, paraphrased, or narrated in Žižek’s work in English (including some in unpublished manuscripts), including different versions of the same joke that make different points in different contexts. The larger point being that comedy is central to Žižek’s seriousness.

In our daily life, it really seems 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.

Why Rationality Matters for Democracy

Why does reason matter, if (as many people seem to think) in the end everything comes down to blind faith or gut instinct? Why not just go with what you believe even if it contradicts the evidence? Why bother with rational explanation when name-calling, manipulation, and force are so much more effective in our current cultural and political landscape? Michael Lynch’s In Praise of Reason offers a spirited defense of reason and rationality in an era of widespread skepticism--when, for example, people reject scientific evidence about such matters as evolution, climate change, and vaccines when it doesn’t jibe with their beliefs and opinions.

In recent years, skepticism about the practical value of reason has emerged even within the scientific academy. Many philosophers and psychologists claim that the reasons we give for our most deeply held views are often little more than rationalizations of our prior convictions. In Praise of Reason gives us a counterargument. Although skeptical questions about reason have a deep and interesting history, they can be answered. In particular, appeals to scientific principles of rationality are part of the essential common currency of any civil democratic society. The idea that everything is arbitrary--that reason has no more weight than blind faith--undermines a key principle of a civil society: that we owe our fellow citizens explanations for what we do. Reason matters--not just for the noble ideal of truth, but for the everyday world in which we live.

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.”

This book draws on ideas from philosophical logic, computational logic, multi-agent systems, and game theory to offer a comprehensive account of logic and games viewed in two complementary ways. It examines the logic of games: the development of sophisticated modern dynamic logics that model information flow, communication, and interactive structures in games. It also examines logic as games: the idea that logical activities of reasoning and many related tasks can be viewed in the form of games.

In doing so, the book takes up the “intelligent interaction” of agents engaging in competitive or cooperative activities and examines the patterns of strategic behavior that arise. It develops modern logical systems that can analyze information-driven changes in players’ knowledge and beliefs, and introduces the “Theory of Play” that emerges from the combination of logic and game theory. This results in a new view of logic itself as an interactive rational activity based on reasoning, perception, and communication that has particular relevance for games.

Logic in Games, based on a course taught by the author at Stanford University, the University of Amsterdam, and elsewhere, can be used in advanced seminars and as a resource for researchers.

The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics

Robots today serve in many roles, from entertainer to educator to executioner. As robotics technology advances, ethical concerns become more pressing: Should robots be programmed to follow a code of ethics, if this is even possible? Are there risks in forming emotional bonds with robots? How might society--and ethics--change with robotics? This volume is the first book to bring together prominent scholars and experts from both science and the humanities to explore these and other questions in this emerging field.
Starting with an overview of the issues and relevant ethical theories, the topics flow naturally from the possibility of programming robot ethics to the ethical use of military robots in war to legal and policy questions, including liability and privacy concerns. The contributors then turn to human-robot emotional relationships, examining the ethical implications of robots as sexual partners, caregivers, and servants. Finally, they explore the possibility that robots, whether biological-computational hybrids or pure machines, should be given rights or moral consideration.
Ethics is often slow to catch up with technological developments. This authoritative and accessible volume fills a gap in both scholarly literature and policy discussion, offering an impressive collection of expert analyses of the most crucial topics in this increasingly important field.

Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change

Many disciplines, including philosophy, history, and sociology, have attempted to make sense of how science works. In this book, Paul Thagard examines scientific development from the interdisciplinary perspective of cognitive science. Cognitive science combines insights from researchers in many fields: philosophers analyze historical cases, psychologists carry out behavioral experiments, neuroscientists perform brain scans, and computer modelers write programs that simulate thought processes.

Thagard develops cognitive perspectives on the nature of explanation, mental models, theory choice, and resistance to scientific change, considering disbelief in climate change as a case study. He presents a series of studies that describe the psychological and neural processes that have led to breakthroughs in science, medicine, and technology. He shows how discoveries of new theories and explanations lead to conceptual change, with examples from biology, psychology, and medicine. Finally, he shows how the cognitive science of science can integrate descriptive and normative concerns; and he considers the neural underpinnings of certain scientific concepts.

Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) and Philosophical Investigations (1953) are among the most influential philosophical books of the twentieth century, and also among the most perplexing. Wittgenstein warned again and again that he was not and would not be understood. Moreover, Wittgenstein's work seems to have little relevance to the way philosophy is done today. In Wittgenstein in Exile, James Klagge proposes a new way of looking at Wittgenstein—as an exile—that helps make sense of this. Wittgenstein's exile was not, despite his wanderings from Vienna to Cambridge to Norway to Ireland, strictly geographical; rather, Klagge argues, Wittgenstein was never at home in the twentieth century. He was in exile from an earlier era—Oswald Spengler's culture of the early nineteenth century.

Klagge draws on the full range of evidence, including Wittgenstein's published work, the complete Nachlaß, correspondence, lectures, and conversations. He places Wittgenstein's work in a broad context, along a trajectory of thought that includes Job, Goethe, and Dostoyevsky. Yet Klagge also writes from an analytic philosophical perspective, discussing such topics as essentialism, private experience, relativism, causation, and eliminativism. Once we see Wittgenstein’s exile, Klagge argues, we will gain a better appreciation of the difficulty of understanding Wittgenstein and his work.

The New Language of Global Bioethics and Biolaw

“Human dignity” has been enshrined in international agreements and national constitutions as a fundamental human right. The World Medical Association calls on physicians to respect human dignity and to discharge their duties with dignity. And yet human dignity is a term--like love, hope, and justice--that is intuitively grasped but never clearly defined. Some ethicists and bioethicists dismiss it; other thinkers point to its use in the service of particular ideologies. In this book, Michael Barilan offers an urgently needed, nonideological, and thorough conceptual clarification of human dignity and human rights, relating these ideas to current issues in ethics, law, and bioethics.

Combining social history, history of ideas, moral theology, applied ethics, and political theory, Barilan tells the story of human dignity as a background moral ethos to human rights. After setting the problem in its scholarly context, he offers a hermeneutics of the formative texts on Imago Dei; provides a philosophical explication of the value of human dignity and of vulnerability; presents a comprehensive theory of human rights from a natural, humanist perspective; explores issues of moral status; and examines the value of responsibility as a link between virtue ethics and human dignity and rights.

Barilan accompanies his theoretical claim with numerous practical illustrations, linking his theory to such issues in bioethics as end-of-life care, cloning, abortion, torture, treatment of the mentally incapacitated, the right to health care, the human organ market, disability and notions of difference, and privacy, highlighting many relevant legal aspects in constitutional and humanitarian law.

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