Consciousness, free will, and the unimportance of determinism

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 32 (March):3-27 (1989)
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Abstract

This article begins with some brief reflexions on the definition of determinism (II), on the notion of the subject of experience (III), and on the relation between conscious experience and brain events (IV). The main discussion (V?XIII) focuses on the traditional view, endorsed by Honderich in his book A Theory of Determinism, that the truth of determinism poses some special threat to our ordinary conception of ourselves as morally responsible free agents (and also to our ?life?hopes'). It is argued that this is half right: the truth of determinism does indeed threaten certain vital parts of our ordinary conception of ourselves as morally responsible free agents. The trouble is that the falsity of determinism does not diminish the threat in any useful way. The old, natural, and recurrent mistake is to think that we would really be better off, so far as free will and moral responsibility (and our ?life?hopes') were concerned, if determinism were false. It is argued that there is no important sense in which this is true, and that the question of whether determinism is true or false is therefore of no real importance, so far as the free will debate is concerned

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Galen Strawson
University of Texas at Austin

Citations of this work

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Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Mortal questions.Thomas Nagel - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Philosophical papers.John Langshaw Austin - 1962 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by J. O. Urmson & G. J. Warnock.
Can we solve the mind-body problem?Colin Mcginn - 1989 - Mind 98 (July):349-66.

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