Mattering and mechanism: Must a mechanistic universe be depressing?

Ratio 24 (3):326-339 (2011)
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Abstract

There is an intuition to the effect that, if human actions are explicable in scientific terms – that is, if mechanism holds – then our lives and actions do not matter. “Mattering” depends on successful intentional explanations of human actions. The intuition springs from an intuitive analogy between manipulation and mechanism: just as a manipulated agent's actions are not successfully explained in intentional terms, neither are the actions of a mechanistic agent. I explore ways to avoid the conclusion of this argument. Some of these ways are more promising than others, but all have non-trivial philosophical consequences

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W. White
University of North Carolina at Wilmington

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