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.
Illusions of control are explored in a wide variety of domains--from the micro level of the self and interpersonal relations to the macro level of large organizations and intergroup and international relations. The authors argue that people are motivated to control the world, and in particular, to control future events. This tendency is strong in Western industrialized societies, where modern science is seen as a means through which humans can gain mastery over environmental conditions. The tendency to control can have positive and negative consequences. Illusions of control are often shattered by unexpected events such as divorce, death, and by technological and environmental changes. The authors argue that the best strategy for coping is to develop long-term goals and short-term strategies. Working from a multidisciplinary perpective, they show how to avoid the pitfalls of these illusions of control. This book will be of interest to students and professionals in social psychology, and organizational behavior management.
Psychology is the dogma of our age; psychotherapy is our means of self-understanding; and "repressed memory" is now a universally familiar form of trauma. Jeffrey Prager, who is both a sociologist and a psychoanalyst, explores the degree to which we manifest the cliches of our culture in our most private recollections.
At the core of "Presenting the Past" is the dramatic and troubling case of a woman who during the course of her analysis began to recall scenes of her own childhood sexual abuse. Later the patient came to believe that the trauma she remembered as a physical violation might have been an emotional violation and that she had composed a memory out of present and past relationships. But what was accurate and true? And what evidence could be persuasive and valuable? Could the analyst trust either her convictions or his own? Using this case and others, Prager explores the nature of memory and its relation to the interpersonal, therapeutic, and cultural worlds in which remembering occurs.
Synthesizing research from social science, psychoanalysis, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology, Prager uses clinical examples to argue more generally that our memories are never simple records of events, but constantly evolving constructions, affected by contemporary culture as well as by our own private lives. He demonstrates the need that sociology has for the insights of psychoanalysis, and the need that psychoanalysis has for the insights of sociology.