Our case for the soul stands or falls with human agency: Do we act, or are we only acted upon? William James, deeply troubled by epiphenomenalism, which made thought no more consequential to action than the whistle on a steam engine, responded (after working things out) that unless thought made some practical difference there’d be no more selective advantage in awareness than evolution imparts to the reflexes of an oyster. Jaegwon Kim has revived the epiphenomenalist claim, arguing that free will violates “causal closure,” by introducing energies into the world unregulated by natural law. But we argue that living beings have ample energies to pursue their interests. The familiar conflict of causal determinism with voluntarism is bogus, since the free will worth having is not indeterminist. It involves self-determination. The readiness potential that Benjamin Libet recorded, we suspect, marks not a pre-choice determination but, as its name implies, a preparedness to act. Much that we do is a matter of habit or routine. But these are often consciously, freely, painstakingly acquired. We may, at times, assign choices to random outcomes. But we remain free agents. We use our brains and are not well described as merely being used by them.
Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.
To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.