Jail break: Tallis and the prison of nature

Human Affairs 32 (4):403-412 (2022)
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In Freedom: An Impossible Reality, Ray Tallis argues that we escape imprisonment by causal determinism, and thus gain free will, by the virtual distance from natural laws afforded us by intentionality, a human capacity that he claims cannot be naturalized. I respond that we can’t know in advance that intentionality will never be subsumed by science, and that our capacities to entertain possibilities and decide among them are natural cognitive endowments that supervene on generally reliable neural processes. Moreover, any disconnection from the multi-level determinants that account for human behavior cannot augment, but would likely undermine, effective human agency. Our full inclusion in nature, understood in terms of a pragmatic, explanatory determinism, is therefore not a prison from which we need to escape.



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