David Hodgson Itâ€™s widely asserted by scientists and philosophers that our decisions and actions are wholly determined by physical processes of our brains; and many also assert that this means we cannot have free will and cannot, in any real sense, be responsible for what we do.Â In recent times, this has led to some questioning of the basis of criminal..
Current developments in the sciences of the brain and mind sometimes seem to suggest that criminal conduct is a symptom of brain disorder or illness that should be treated rather than punished.Â This paper argues that the insights of these sciences should be taken very seriously by lawyers, but not to the detriment of common-sense ideas of responsibility or of their incorporation into the legal categories used in the criminal law.
Max Bennett is a distinguished Australian neuroscientist, Peter Hacker an Oxford philosopher and a leading authority on Wittgenstein. A book resulting from their collaboration (M. R. Bennett and P. M. S. Hacker, Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, Oxford: Blackwell, 2003) has received high praise. According to the Blackwell website, G. H. von Wright asserts that it â€˜will certainly, for a long time to come, be the most important contribution to the mind-body problem that there isâ€™; and Sir Anthony Kenny says it (...) â€˜shows that the claims made on behalf of cognitive science are ill-founded.â€™ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The book builds on Wittgensteinâ€™s remark that â€˜Only of a human being and what resembles (behaves like) a living human being can one say: it has sensations; it sees, is blind; hears, is deaf; is conscious or unconsciousâ€™ (quoted at p. 71). The authors identify what they call the mereological fallacy, the fallacy of attributing to a part of something properties that are correctly attributed only to the whole. Much of the book is a development of the claim that most neuroscientists commit this fallacy by attributing to brains properties and activities that can properly be attributed only to persons. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I wonâ€™t give a general review of the book, which does make valuable points concerning the importance of using language accurately in discussing mental concepts: helpful and laudatory reviews can be found on the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews website (by Dennis Patterson) and in Philosophy 79, No. 307 (January 2004) 141-46 (by Daniel N. Robinson). However, I believe that some of its basic propositions are themselves fundamentally mistaken, and suggest that this is a consequence of disregard of opposing considerations, and insufficient recognition of the flexibility of language. I will discuss three basic propositions from the book, which are particularly relevant from the â€˜consciousness studiesâ€™ point of view.. (shrink)
Â I have argued elsewhere that respect for human rights requires a robust notion of responsibility, and that this in turn depends on folk-psychological ideas including free will; and also that such ideas need to be articulated in such a way that they can be used in combination with contemporary science in the development of the criminal law.Â Stephen J. Morse contends that responsibility is explained by our capacity to grasp and be guided by good reasons, and that this (...) is so despite the truth of determinism. Â In this article, I consider whether Morseâ€™s criterion is sufficiently robust to support human rights in an era when science is suggesting that behaviour is just the causal product of genes and environment, and whether the criterion is such that it can satisfactorily be used together with science in the development of the criminal law.Â I contend that Morseâ€™s criterion presupposes the ability to reason consciously and informally, using emotional feelings as well as logic, and to bridge a gap that exists between reasons on the one hand and conclusions and actions on the other.Â I suggest that, on this criterion, we can be responsible because the reasons do not compel conclusions, so that, in the exercise of the capacity Morse refers to, we can either heed and obey the requirements of the law, or not do so, as we choose.Â So interpreted, I contend, the criterion can be sufficiently robust to support human rights notwithstanding the claims of science that I have mentioned, and to contribute to the development of the criminal law; but I also contend that the criterion itself suggests a possible qualification to those claims and implies that the question of determinism should at least be left open. (shrink)
In this book, John Searle makes a significant contribution to the philosophy of rational action, and its implications for the problem of free will.Â The book also marks a change in Searleâ€™s thinking since his 1992 book The Rediscovery of the Mind , particularly in that he now leaves open, as a reasonable possibility, that consciousness may be able to cause things that cannot be fully explained by the causal behaviour of neurons:Â for me, a step in the right direction (...) (cf. Hodgson 1994).Â Searle also for the first time supports a non- Humean notion of the self, as an entity that can, as a whole, consciously try to do things. (shrink)
They have not given much attention to something I think is significant in the book, namely its clear and forceful criticism of the morality of aspects of major religions, including Christianity and Judaism, criticism that deserves to be taken seriously by reasonable adherents of these religions.
Responses to my article on Dawkins and God (May 2007) have fallen into two classes: those that challenge my criticism of Dawkins’ atheism, and those that challenge my criticism of the morality on display in some Bible stories. I will briefly respond to those in the first class, and then those in the second class. P. J. Moss suggests I am attracted to “the Cartesian notion of mind body dualism,” and do not have regard to “the work of those philosophers (...) of mind who … see the task of the philosopher as posing the problem into a precise enough form so that it admits of scientific resolution;” and he commends the work of John Searle. I am indeed attracted to a kind of dualism. However, it is not the Cartesian dualism of “two distinct realms” rejected by Searle, but rather a dualism that accepts, as Searle does, that there are two categories of empirical reality, subjective and objective, which are mutually irreducible The Rediscovery of the Mind , pp19, 98), and that there are features of subjective reality that cannot be fully understood in terms of objective reality. In a major work published in 2001, Rationality in Action , Searle even leaves open as a reasonable possibility a view I support, namely that consciousness may be able to cause things that cannot be fully explained by the causal behaviour of neurons, and he also supports a non Humean notion of the self, as an entity that can, as a whole, consciously try to do things: see my review in (2002) Journal of Consciousness Studies 9(2), 92 94. In any event, my argument against Dawkins does not depend on acceptance of dualism, just on the undoubted fact that science does not yet have the first idea what objective features are necessary and sufficient to give rise to subjectivity. Robert McLaughlin makes out a reasoned case against my three suggested errors in Dawkins. It would take a book to deal fully with points of the kind he raises (I tried with my 1991 book The Mind Matters , and I may try again), but I have to be brief here.. (shrink)
(This is an author-produced electronic version of an article published in Oxford Journal of Legal Studies following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version 1995 14 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 51-68 is available online..
One has it that earlier circumstances and the laws of nature uniquely determine later circumstances, and the other has it that past present and future all exist tenselessly in a ‘block universe,’ so that the passage of time and associated changes in the world are illusions or at best merely apparent.
Fifty years ago the philosopher Wilfred Sellars identified two images of “man”, which he called respectively the “manifest image” and the “scientific image”; and he considered whether and how these two images could be reconciled. In this paper, I will very briefly look at the distinction drawn by Sellars and at his suggestions for reconciliation of these images. I will suggest that a broad distinction as suggested by Sellars can indeed usefully be drawn, but that the distinction can be more (...) helpfully characterised than it was by Sellars. I will argue that there are more ways of reconciling the two images than those proposed by Sellars. And I will elaborate on what I think are the most promising lines along which the reconciliation could take place. (shrink)
In recent years, philosophical discussions of free will have focused largely on whether or not free will is compatible with determinism. In this challenging book, David Hodgson takes a fresh approach to the question of free will, contending that close consideration of human rationality and human consciousness shows that together they give us free will, in a robust and indeterministic sense. In particular, they give us the capacity to respond appositely to feature-rich gestalts of conscious experiences, in ways that are (...) not wholly determined by laws of nature or computational rules. The author contends that this approach is consistent with what science tells us about the world; and he considers its implications for our responsibility for our own conduct, for the role of retribution in criminal punishment, and for the place of human beings in the wider scheme of things. -/- Praise for David Hodgson's previous work, The Mind Matters -/- "magisterial...It is balanced, extraordinarily thorough and scrupulously fair-minded; and it is written in clear, straightforward, accessible prose." --Michael Lockwood, Times Literary Supplement -/- "an excellent contribution to the literature. It is well written, authoritative, and wonderfully wide-ranging. ... This account of quantum theory ... will surely be of great value. ... On the front cover of the paper edition of this book Paul Davies is quoted as saying that this is "a truly splendid and provocative book". In writing this review I have allowed myself to be provoked, but I am happy to close by giving my endorsement to this verdict in its entirety!" --Euan Squires, Journal of Consciousness Studies -/- "well argued and extremely important book." --Sheena Meredith, New Scientist -/- "His reconstructions and explanations are always concise and clear." --Jeffrey A Barrett, The Philosophical Review -/- "In this large-scale and ambitious work Hodgson attacks a modern orthodoxy. Both its proponents and its opponents will find it compelling reading." --J. R. Lucas, Merton College, Oxford. (shrink)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Many scientists and philosophers would answer nothing.Â According to them, the physical world operates in accordance with the laws of physics, chemistry and biology, and is closed to being affected by anything non-physical. Â Thus, any effects that conscious experiences may have can only come about by virtue of physical brain processes that are associated with and perhaps constitute these experiences. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â This physicalist (...) approach, however, raises the question why, if all is achieved by physical processes operating in accordance with physical laws of nature, are some of these processes associated with and possibly constitutive of subjective conscious experiences, when this association does precisely nothing.Â From an evolutionary viewpoint, this would not seem to make sense:Â the selection of consciousness through the survival and reproduction of conscious organisms strongly suggests that consciousness confers an advantage on an organism that has it. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â A possible answer is that somehow conscious experiences are inevitably associated with certain advantageous physical processes, so that when these advantageous processes were selected in evolution, consciousness was selected with them.Â Just as, for example, a polar bear canâ€™t have the useful warmth of its coat.. (shrink)
I much appreciated Elizabeth Schier's paper on Frank Jackson's knowledge argument, published in the January 2008 issue of Journal of Consciousness Studies (Schier, 2008) -- in part, I confess, because of resonances with my gestalt argument for free will (Hodgson, 2001; 2002; 2005; 2007a,b). I would like to offer two comments on this paper.
It has been contended that we can never be truly responsible for anything we do: we do what we do because of the way we are, so we cannot be responsible for what we do unless we are responsible for the way we are; and we cannot be responsible for the way we are when we first make decisions in life, so we can never become responsible for the way we are later in life. This article argues that in our (...) consciously chosen actions we respond rationally to whole ‘gestalt’ experiences in ways that cannot be pre determined by pre choice circumstances and laws of nature and/or computational rules; and that this means we are partly responsible for what we do, even if we are not responsible for the way we are. (shrink)
In my experience, plain persons (here meaning persons who are neither philosophers or cognitive scientists) tend to accept something like a libertarian position on free will, namely that free will exists and is inconsistent with determinism. That position is widely debunked by philosophers and cognitive scientists. My view at present is that something like this plain person's position is not only defensible but likely to be closer to the truth than opposing views. To put this to the test, I have (...) written a simple and straightforward outline of what I hope is a philosophically and scientifically respectable version of the plain person's position on free will, and have offered it for demolition by those who say such a view is untenable. My account of free will is a robust one, explicitly inconsistent with determinism and intended to support equally robust views of personal responsibility for conduct. I see three broad areas of difficulty for this account. (shrink)
Max Bennett is a distinguished Australian neuroscientist, Peter Hacker an Oxford philosopher and leading authority on Wittgenstein. A book resulting from their collaboration, Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, has received high praise. According to the Blackwell website, G.H. von Wright asserts that it 'will certainly, for a long time to come, be the most important contribution to the mind-body problem that there is'; and Sir Anthony Kenny says it 'shows that the claims made on behalf of cognitive science are ill-founded'. (...) M.R. Bennett & P.M.S. Hacker, Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003). (shrink)
I am very grateful to the commentators for their consideration of my target article. I found their comments thought-provoking and challenging, but I am not persuaded that any substantial departure is required from the views I expressed in the article. I will respond to each comment in turn, and then I will briefly review how my nine propositions have fared.
DAVID HODGSON Abstract: This article supports the proposition that, if a judgment about the aesthetic merits of an artistic object can take into account and thereby be influenced by the particular quality of the object, through gestalt experiences evoked by the object, then we have free will. It argues that it is probable that such a judgment can indeed take into account and be influenced by the particular quality of the object through gestalt experiences evoked by it, so as to (...) make it probable that we do have free will. The proposition is supported by reference to two basic tricks apparently involved in conscious processes, which I call the qualia trick and the chunking trick; and it is suggested that these tricks make possible and indeed probable the existence of a third trick, which I call the selection trick. (shrink)
This paper introduces a conjecture that laws of nature may be of different kinds, in particular that there may, in addition to laws which constrain outcomes (C-laws), be laws which empower systems to direct or select outcomes (E-laws) and laws which guide systems in such selections (G-laws). The paper defends this conjecture by suggesting that it is not excluded by anything we know, is plausible, and is potentially of great explanatory power.
Hume claimed that anything that happens must either be causally determined or a matter of chance, and that a person is responsible only for choices caused by the person’s character; so that if any sense is to made of free will and responsibility, it must be on the basis that they are compatible with determinism.
In this book, Hodgson presents a clear and compelling case against today's orthodox mechanistic view of the brain-mind, and in favor of the view that "the mind matters." In the course of the argument he ranges over such topics as consciousness, informal reasoning, computers, evolution, and quantum indeterminancy and non-locality. Although written from a philosophical viewpoint, the book has important implications for the sciences concerned with the brain-mind problem. At the same time, it is largely non-technical, and thus accessible to (...) the non-specialist reader. (shrink)