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How Free Are You?: The Determinism Problem 2nd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199251971
ISBN-10: 0199251975
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Honderich accomplishes something remarkable in this short book. He simply and clearly explains most of the issues grouped by philosophers under "free will" and "determinism" while at the same time conveying to lay readers the complexity of the field. Honderich argues for a version of determinism; human beings, in his view, are subject to causal laws that account for their behavior. Along the way, most of the standard arguments, and a few nonstandard ones, receive Honderich's penetrating attention. Many people shy away from determinism because they think that human life as we know it depends on belief in free will. Honderich disagrees; if we resolutely accept determinism, he argues, our lives will be tolerable. The book is based on Honderich's long, difficult, and influential A Theory of Determinism (Oxford Univ. Pr., 1988). Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
- David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., Ohio
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Honderich (Philosophy/University College, London) ponders an age-old question--are we free agents or pawns of unknown forces?- -and winds up embracing determinism. The author arrives at this conclusion through a series of closely argued deductions and thought experiments (readers unfamiliar with the terms of standard philosophical debate will welcome the excellent glossary at the end). His basic point is that all our actions are effects resulting from earlier causes; there is, then, no room for free will. Evidence for this lies, he believes, in a careful study of human neurology. He rejects epiphenomenalism, the theory that the mind is a byproduct of brain activity; rather, he sees actions as caused by ``psychoneural'' events that involve the combined effort of mind and brain. Nonetheless, Honderich argues that there is in fact no ``self'' within us that originates actions. His weakest moment comes when confronting the most popular recent challenge to determinism, quantum theory, which insists on the uncertainty of events within the subatomic world; here, his response is that maybe subatomic events don't have much to do with our level of reality, and, in any case, a new physics may come along that is based on determinism. Extrapolating his position into social spheres, he points out that in a determinist world there is no room for moral blame, and therefore punishment for the sake of punishment should be abolished; also, he suggests, those who deny free will may choose to move to the political left, which emphasizes social remedies over individual responsibility. As Honderich would have it, whether you read his book is not a matter of choice. Nonetheless, recommended for those with well- muscled brains. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (May 23, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199251975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199251971
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.2 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,886,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
An introductory book about free-will vs determinism. For Honderich, determinism wins over free-will. Basically, the argument goes: our choices are caused; causation implies necessary relations between distinct entities; thus, if antecdents in a necessary relation holds, the resultant choice could not have been otherwise; there is no freedom (in the sense of self-originating choice) in this; thus there is no free-will.

Being an introduction, it is scant on references to contemporary authors or the details of contemporary debates. For this reason, some of his arguments skip over, without notice, some objections that could be made. E.g. Honderich takes explanation to always and only be about ontologically necessary relations. Some argue that such relations are neither logically necessary nor sufficient for explanation. Another e.g., Honderich's preferred Union Theory of the Mind-Body relation leaves aside the question of what precisely 'mental events' are. He tells us they are 'real' and so located in time-space, and also tells us they are not physical per se, but does not tell us what more they are than that, thereby leaving us with the 'hard problem' of what their precise nature is.

Given his determinism, Honderich's account of what 'free choices' amounts to is reasonable enough. Roughly, if you are not coercised, not under the influence of mind-altering substances, have an active intention in mind, etc., then your action was a 'free' one. It seems to me that difficulties with this arise if you starts wondering whether your intention is really 'your own' ... ironically, as philosophers more than anyone are wont to do.

Honderich's arguments are given in detail in his book, "The Consequences of Determinism: A Theory of Determinism, Volume 2 (Theory of Determinism Series)".
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I have been a firm believer in determinism for a very long time... And ive read my fair share of philosophical literature on the subject... I was a little disappointed with this book... I was expecting more... No new ideas but if you know nothing about determinism its a good start to look here... However, I feel that the articles in Poijmans, introduction to philosophy text book are better...

This book did shed some new light for me on compatibalism... ie, some say that free will and determinism are compatibale because the agent wants what his deterministic nature wants.... and some say that they are not compatible because the agent did not originate his deterministic attributes, even though he does agree with them...

The book also lifts the person back up after they have fallen into the mind quaking fear of determinism. It does a good job at that..

The idea of determinism, thanks to neurology, will be the next revolution in culture... Darwin has a rival for the spotlight...

Because this theory is the next revolution in intellectual thought and because this book is at least an excellent introduction to determinism i give this book full stars...

Watch for my book on determinism... ha ha!!!
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