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Mind, Brain, and Free Will [Hardcover]

Richard Swinburne
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2013
Mind, Brain, and Free Will presents a powerful new case for substance dualism (the theory that humans consist of two parts body and soul) and for libertarian free will (that humans have some freedom to choose between alternatives, independently of the causes which influence them). Richard Swinburne begins by analysing the criteria for one event or substance being the same event or substance as another one, and the criteria for an event being metaphysically possible; and then goes on to analyse the criteria for beliefs about these issues being rational or justified. Given these criteria, he then proceeds to argue that pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them. He claims that no result from neuroscience or any other science could show that there is no such interaction, and illustrates this claim by showing that recent scientific work (such as Libet's experiments) has no tendency whatever to show that our intentions do not cause brain events. Swinburne goes on to argue for agent causation, that-to speak precisely-it is we, and not our intentions, that cause our brain events. It is metaphysically possible that each of us could acquire a new brain or continue to exist without a brain; and so we are essentially souls. Brain events and conscious events are so different from each other that it would not be possible to establish a scientific theory which would predict what each of us would do in situations of moral conflict. Hence given a crucial epistemological principle (the Principle of Credulity), we should believe that things are as they seem to be: that we make choices independently of the causes which influence us. According to Swinburne's lucid and ambitious account, it follows that we are morally responsible for our actions.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: OUP UK (1 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199662568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199662562
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,276,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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This is an interesting and provocative book. It defends a view about human beings and their nature, which, for better or for worse, is a minority view nowadays among philosophers but which, as Swinburne points out, has probably been the "traditional majority Western view on these issues" . . . The scope of the book is especially impressive, and the picture it paints is powerful and suggestive (David Palmer, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

About the Author

Richard Swinburne was Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at Oxford University from 1985 until 2002. He is a Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of many books on philosophical issues, most of them concerned with the philosophy of religion, but others concerned with space and time, probability, epistemology, and mind and body. He lectures frequently in many different countries.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heroic defence of Cartesian Dualism 7 Mar 2013
This is a book that can be considered as having three parts: first an introduction to metaphysics and a critique of physicalism; second an account and defence of Cartesian substance dualism; and finally a defence of human (libertarian) free will and moral responsibility.

The first part of the book is admirable and very clearly written. It is refreshing to read a philosopher who is willing take a metaphysical approach to the subject, instead of the currently over-fashionable analytic method. Some definitions are made in non-standard ways, such as allowing an event to have an arbitrary duration, so that, as Swinburne says, his `event' is ether an instantaneous event, or a very brief event like an explosion, or a `state of affairs'. Whenever Swinburne makes a non-standard definition, he explains and motivates it clearly. He discusses topics such as the ontological character of the laws of physics: are these just observed regularities (as Hume claimed), or are they descriptions of the causal powers and liabilities (= `propensities to behave') that belong to physical entities, or are they something else? He argues in some detail against mind-brain identity theories. There are thorough, interesting and informative discussions of many other topics. Extended additional notes at the end of the book are also useful.

The second part is a defence of Cartesian substance dualism. This is a welcome, detailed and clear account of this minority position. At university I had been led to believe that substance dualists had been extinct for several hundred years, so it is good to know that one or two are still alive and kicking. Swinburne's first tactical step is to make the mental/physical distinction in terms of our privileged access to mental properties.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The most persuasive outline of substance Dualism 17 Dec 2013
By Sam
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the most persuasive argument for substance dualism I have ever come across; it is both philosophically rigorous and empirically well-informed. It goes well alongside Raymond Tallis' 'Aping Mankind'.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why substance dualism still lives 4 July 2013
By Cornell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Philosophy of mind is one of Richard Swinburne's fields in which he shows everyone why holding a minority view with respect to position X in the field, doesn't mean position X should be considered to be irrational or false.

In Mind, Brain & Free Will you notice Swinburne brings back some of his material that he has used in other works of his such as 'Evolution of the Soul' and "Responsibility and Atonement'.

The book is broken up into 8 parts, the chapters are as follows:

1. Ontology
2. Epistemology
3. Property and Event Dualism
4. Interactive Dualism
5. Agent Causation
6. Substance Dualism
7. Free Will
8. Moral Responsibility

Every chapter is exciting and filled with mind food that should keep your interest level at a high mark.

I particularly liked his chapter on Free Will as he brings up some familiar arguments known to the field by prominent philosophers in Derek Pereboom and Peter Van Inwagen.
You'll notice that Swinburne goes into discussions about *PAP, quantum theory and indeterminism to elaborate more on the natural probability of a sequence of brain events that lead to some movement as it may correspond to the relative strength of a desire to bring about that sequence.

Swinburne follows with:

"It is hardly news that it is harder for humans to do some free acts than to do other free acts; but that doesn't mean that we don't have free will. It means only that our free will is a limited one. An agent can still do what he or she is on balance inclined not to do. So I argue against Van Inwagen, as against Pereboom, that in any finite human life it may often be that the most probable outcome does not occur because the agent may do what they are on balance inclined NOT to do. And it is what the agent does, not what they are inclined to do which matters." pg 208

Richard Swinburne just gets better with age, and I don't see him losing a step at all here. I highly recommend this book to those who wish to defend a form of substance dualism, a view that is not very popular, but yet is still very much alive due to philosophers like Swinburne.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful framework for interactive dualism 16 Jan 2014
By A. J. L. MENUGE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Most discussions of substance dualism are terse and dismissive and fail to do justice to the view because they do not consider two important things: (a) the underlying metaphysical and epistemological assumptions that frame substance dualism and on which it appears a plausible and attractive position; (b) a detailed analysis of the consequences of denying the view. Swinburne shows how substance dualism does not require a special, strange view of causation only found in rational agents, but can be located in a highly plausible general framework of substance causation. Once that entire framework is understood, many of the objections to substance dualism turn out to rest on the unexamined (and highly debatable) assumption that a paradigm of passive event causation is the most illuminating way to understand the world. Swinburne (like the late, great E. J. Lowe) provides reasons to think this is false even in the case of ordinary physical causation, and certainly is not the best account of mental causation. He also shows that the physicalist principle of the causal closure of the physical realm has a highly problematic consequence: were it true, scientists could not be justified in believing it, because scientists must appeal to the memory and testimony of themselves and others, and this appeal is reliable only if mental states can have physical effects. Paradoxically, a scientific case for the causal closure principle could only be made if that principle were false, and so that scientific case would necessarily be unreliable. In other words, the causal closure principle is not a scientific principle at all, but an a priori philosophical thesis. There are many good rebuttals to some of the overblown claims initially made about Ben Libet's famous experiments (e.g. by Al Mele and Timothy O'Connor), but Swinburne's is, I think, one of the most conclusive. This book is very well-informed by science and the philosophical literature and it makes tight, logical arguments. It deserves a wide readership and serious open-minded discussion, by philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Analysis of Mind vs. Body 31 July 2014
By Jane Morris - Published on Amazon.com
In "The Existence of God", author and philosopher Richard Swinburne argued that the existence of consciousness provides evidence that God exists. In "Mind, Brain, and Free Will" he expounds on his original ideas and defends the argument that humans consist of two parts - a body and a soul. "Are we complicated machines or souls interacting with bodies?" That is the question Swinburne hopes to answer.

Substance dualism has not always been the most popular idea. This particular variety of dualism in the philosophy of the mind holds that the mental and physical substance exist independently. "Mind, Brain, and Free Will" is an ambitious analysis of this idea and though it is often a bit distracted, it is detailed... (This is very much the style I have observed of Swinburne, since I first found his essay, "God and Time" in Reasoned Faith: Essays in Philosophical Theology in Honor of Norman Kretzmann).

Swinburne discusses ontology, epistemology, property and event dualism, interactive dualism, agent causation, substance dualism, free will, and moral responsibility. Whether you agree with substance dualism or not, this read is a very interesting one. Free will and moral responsibility alone are great topics to sink your teeth into, no matter your personal views.

Overall, Swinburne provides a thorough analysis of the mind versus the body using human nature as a connecting thread. "Mind, Brain, and Free Will" comes in at an easily digestible 256 pages.
8 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful book. 5 April 2013
By Mark Alan McNeil - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Swinburne is very systematic and careful in his thinking. This book does a great job presenting fresh insight into these issues.
0 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sophistry and illusion 2 Jan 2014
By Jamal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is pretty whack. If you like substance dualism you will certainly disgaree. A lot of painfully articulated hot air.
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