This 10th book in the series addresses automaticity and how it relates to social behavior. The lead article, written by John Bargh, argues that social psychology phenomena are essentially automatic in nature, as opposed to being mediated by conscious choice or reflection. Bargh maintains that an automatic mental phenomenon is that which occurs reflexively whenever certain triggering conditions are in place; when those conditions are present, the process runs off autonomously, independently of conscious guidance. In his lead article, he focuses on these preconscious automatic processes that can be contrasted with postconscious and goal-dependent forms of automaticity which depend on more than the mere presence of environmental objects or events. Because social psychology, like automaticity theory and research, is also largely concerned with phenomena that occur whenever certain situational features or factors are in place, social psychology phenomena are essentially automatic. Students and researchers in social and cognitive psychology will find this to be a provocative addition to the series.
How is free will possible in the light of the physical and chemical underpinnings of brain activity and recent neurobiological experiments? How can the emergence of complexity in hierarchical systems such as the brain, based at the lower levels in physical interactions, lead to something like genuine free will? The nature of our understanding of free will in the light of present-day neuroscience is becoming increasingly important because of remarkable discoveries on the topic being made by neuroscientists at the present time, on the one hand, and its crucial importance for the way we view ourselves as human beings, on the other. A key tool in understanding how free will may arise in this context is the idea of downward causation in complex systems, happening coterminously with bottom up causation, to form an integral whole. Top-down causation is usually neglected, and is therefore emphasized in the other part of the book’s title. The concept is explored in depth, as are the ethical and legal implications of our understanding of free will.
This book arises out of a workshop held in California in April of 2007, which was chaired by Dr. Christof Koch. It was unusual in terms of the breadth of people involved: they included physicists, neuroscientists, psychiatrists, philosophers, and theologians. This enabled the meeting, and hence the resulting book, to attain a rather broader perspective on the issue than is often attained at academic symposia. The book includes contributions by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, George F. R. Ellis , Christopher D. Frith, Mark Hallett, David Hodgson, Owen D. Jones, Alicia Juarrero, J. A. Scott Kelso, Christof Koch, Hans Küng, Hakwan C. Lau, Dean Mobbs, Nancey Murphy, William Newsome, Timothy O’Connor, Sean A.. Spence, and Evan Thompson.
Poverty is not accident, but design. We are not all equal before the law. And the central message of contemporary ethics is that only some people matter.
Expanding on work described as “crucial” and “very fine and provocative” by the Editor of The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, author James Miles now shows not only that free will is a delusion but that it is this delusion that has left us with only the illusion of morality.
Belief in free will means never having to acknowledge your own great good fortune, or recognise the far greater misfortune of others.
It is the conceit of freedom of the will that today ensures that so many at the bottom are denied any chance of social and economic advancement. Some free will theorists even argue that we need not be concerned with ideals of equality, fair play and opportunity. Is this fair? “Is it fair...? Life isn’t fair”, shrugs the free will philosopher Dan Dennett. Yes, life is not fair, and if we leave it up to the priests and the philosophers, it never will be.
The Free Will Delusion is an eloquent and rousing call to arms that we can be, we must be, better than this.