Human Freedom after Darwin: A Critical Rationalist View

Human Freedom after Darwin: A Critical Rationalist View

Human Freedom after Darwin: A Critical Rationalist View

Human Freedom after Darwin: A Critical Rationalist View

Synopsis

"In Human Freedom after Darwin, John Watkins seeks to defend a distinctive view while, unlike classical rationalists, abiding unswervingly by the naturalistic principle that humankind is a part of nature." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This book is not about political freedom; nor is it about free will, though that receives some passing mention. It is about larger issues to do with human freedom of the kind that Spinoza, Kant, and Schopenhauer addressed. These issues seem to have dropped off the agenda of Anglo-American philosophy. This book seeks to revivify them by approaching them from a fresh philosophical standpoint.

A view of human freedom requires a view of what used to be called Man's Place in Nature, in order to assess what autonomy or self-determination, if any, Nature allows to individuals when their minds arc at their active best. Unlike a world-view in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, a world-view today must accord with contemporary neo-Darwinism. A world-view that does that will be sketched in Part One, in which Chapter 5, on genes and the mind, and Chapter 3, on science and determinism, have key positions.

The question as to how human minds at their active best should be understood will be answered from a critical rationalist standpoint. Critical rationalism is a theory of knowledge, especially scientific knowledge. The theories of knowledge put forward by Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, and Kant, were very different, but they had one thing in common: they denied that there can be genuine invention in science. Critical rationalism disagrees. Its most distinctive feature, with respect to the above question, is its analysis of major theoretical advances in science. Its finding is that they introduce new content that could not have been derived from material already there; there must be genuine invention in science, otherwise those advances would not have occurred. Critical rationalism was sometimes seen as the idiosyncratic doctrine of a noisy gang who denied such truisms as that science starts from observations. But the central components of its understanding of science are very generally accepted . . .

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