The Consequences of Determinism: A Theory of Determinism - Vol. 2

The Consequences of Determinism: A Theory of Determinism - Vol. 2

The Consequences of Determinism: A Theory of Determinism - Vol. 2

The Consequences of Determinism: A Theory of Determinism - Vol. 2


In The Consequences of Determinism, originally Part Three of the single-volume hardback edition, Honderich poses the following question: if determinism is true, and free will an illusion, what are the consequences? Honderich maintains that both of the entrenched and traditional doctrines about the consequences of determinism, Compatibilism and Incompatibilism, are provably false, and formulates a new answer to the question.


What are the consequences of a conceptually satisfactory theory of our ongoing lives, above all our deciding and acting, in terms of causal and other necessary connections? What are the consequences, that is, of a theory of ourselves which locates us within the natural world rather than apart from it? What are the consequences, again, of a theory of our lives which eschews explanations, if they can be called such, which are intrinsically mysterious, explanations having to do with Free Will? Such mysterious explanations include within themselves a certain proposition, on reflection a striking one. It is that every fact about a person, including every fact about brain and Central Nervous System, and character and personality, and thought and feeling, might have been exactly as it was before and at the moment when the person understood something, or hoped, or decided, or acted, and nevertheless the understanding, hoping, deciding or acting might never have occurred. That was a possibility in reality, not merely something that can be thought without contradiction.

To put the same question in a last and the most familar philosophical way, what follows from a determinist theory of our existence?

I have in mind, as philosophers generally have, a theory which is deterministic in a strong way. Many theories of our existence, including Freud's, whatever else is to be said of them, can be, and often are, taken in the strong deterministic way. The same question of consequences arises, as it turns out, about certain widely accepted outlooks or theories which are less deterministic, or indeed partly indeterministic and wholly consistent with a common interpretation of Quantum Theory. It arises, for example, about what is sometimes called naturalism, or the scientific vision of ourselves, which may combine micro-indeterminism with macro-determinism. (Dennett, 1984 Searle, 1984, Lect. 6) Philosophers have given more attention to this question of consequences than to two prior ones, those of the conceptual adequacy and of the truth of determinism. Expressed differently, and as generally, it is the question of what we are to make of our lives if or since determinism is true.

It has given rise to two traditions, each seeming to be as strong now, in 1990, as it has been in past centuries. The answer given in one . . .

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