Determinism and Desert: Caruso and Flanagan's Neuroexistentialism

Tom Clark
Book Title: 
Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience
Book Author: 
Gregg D. Caruso & Owen Flanagan, Editors

A cutting-edge collection of essays by scientists and philosophers responding to questions raised by the naturalization of human agency, what the editors call the "third wave" of existentialist anxiety.

In Neuroexistentialism, editors Gregg Caruso and Owen Flanagan present a nicely varied and decidedly naturalistic set of responses to the worries Tom Wolfe addressed 20 years ago in his Forbes article Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died. In seeking some sort of post-soul equilibrium in light of neuroscience and other sciences bearing on human agency, no supernatural hypotheses or claims are made anywhere in this collection. The contributors all agree that empirical science, kept honest by philosophy, should arbitrate questions of what exists, all of which is within nature. Despite this common ground, they sometimes diverge substantially on what the naturalization of agency means, or should mean, for us neurally-instantiated selves. Is there any room for ultimate self-construction, and thus for deep, ultimate responsibility? If not, what impact might this have on our interpersonal attitudes, our concepts of authenticity, control, and moral responsibility, and on criminal justice policy? Most basically, how, without recourse to the supernatural, can we come to terms with the scientific picture of who we are? (Wolfe ends his article suggesting we can’t help but re-inject God.) This volume presents a wide range of enlightening interdisciplinary perspectives from scientists and philosophers on discovering ourselves to be fully natural, physical creatures...

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