Richard Swinburne’s newest book: Mind, Brain, and Free Will

This book will be published May 15, 2013. Here is the book’s description on Amazon:

Mind, Brain, and Free Will presents a powerful new case for substance dualism (the idea 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 argues that answers to questions about mind, body, and free will depend crucially on the answers to more general philosophical questions. He begins by analyzing the criteria for one event being the same as another, one substance being the same as another, and a state of affairs being metaphysically possible; and then goes on to analyze the criteria for a belief about these issues being justified. Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them. Swinburne claims that no result from neuroscience or any other science could show that interaction does not take place; 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. He goes on to argue for agent causation, and claims 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.

LINK to Amazon

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

    ‘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.’

    In other words, there is nothing in the universe which can cause a Christian to behave well.

    If a Christian swears to you on his mother’s grave that he will repay the 5 pounds he is borrowing off you, his choice as to whether he gives you back your money will be independent of his promise to do so.

    • staircaseghost

      “In other words, there is nothing in the universe which can cause a Christian to behave well.”

      So when my preacher testified that coming to Jesus caused him to overcome his alcoholism, he was lying?

      He should get in touch with Mr. Swinburne, who will set him straight: there is no reason whatsoever to expect a correlation between any amount of religiosity and any amount of good behavior.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

        Yes, you are right, it makes you wonder if Professor Swinburne knows the meaning of the word ‘independent’.

        ‘ that we make choices independently of the causes which influence us.’

        Does Swinburne really claim there is no correlation between what influences us (our brains?) and the choices we make.

  • Francois Tremblay

    I call bullshit. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe any “powerful new case” can be made for these claims. They are pre-modern ideas that have nothing to do with empirical evidence or an honest search for truth.

    I accept that I should believe that things are what they seem to be, unless I find further evidence. But it does not appear to me as if “we make choices independently of the causes which influence us.” In fact, it appears the EXACT OPPOSITE way, to me. Either Swinburne is a completely different kind of being than I am, or one of us is spectacularly bad at introspecting, or he’s lying.

  • MNb

    “Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events ”
    How does Swinburne know? He doesn’t? Then he is only proving what he assumes in the first place.

    • Jorge

      Ever thought about actually reading the content of the book to find out? He doesn’t just blindly assert his conclusion; he gives rather detailed arguments in support of his case.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

        But does Swinburne actually know what the word ‘independent’ means?

        According to his publisher’s blurb, Swinburne’s actions are ‘independent’ of what he has promised he would do.

        Does he really give rather detailed arguments in support of his case that his choices today are independent of what he claimed yesterday he would do ?

      • MNb

        Hence the question marks. If I have to read all books recommended by believers last two years nine lives will not be nearly enough.

      • MNb

        But I take it that Swinburne only provides arguments? Well, conclusions of arguments never are stronger than the assumptions they are based on. Could it be that some of these assumptions are about duality in the first place? You see, I’m not aware of any empirical fact that suggests the distinction of mental vs. physical events. Rather the contrary – mind is physical. That’s why I prefer the word soul; I suspect – but it has to be proven yet – that smart believers avoid this word on purpose to give them some “scientific” credibility. But yes, I could be wrong.
        Hence the question marks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

    ‘Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them.’

    How?

    How do dualists avoid locked-in syndrome?

    And why can’t paralysed people move their legs by using their free will? Is this mind limited to what physical systems it can affect? How can that be?

  • Richard_Wein

    I googled Swinburne’s “principle of credulity” and found this.

    “The principle of credulity states that if it seems to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present. Generally, says Swinburne, it is reasonable to believe that the world is probably as we experience it to be. Unless we have some specific reason to question a religious experience, therefore, then we ought to accept that it is at least prima facie evidence for the existence of God.”

    This is really just begging the question. If I didn’t think I had good reasons to question the veridicality of religious experiences, I wouldn’t be an atheist.

    You could say that religious experiences are prima facie evidence for the existence of God. You could also say that the Sun’s movement across the sky is prima facie evidence that the Sun goes around the Earth. But what’s the point? It’s just reminding us of obvious first appearances. Hasn’t the argument progressed beyond that stage?

    P.S. In practice Swinburne’s principle is likely to act as a licence for putting too much trust in one’s instinctive feelings, and not subjecting them to sufficient rational scrutiny. And it sounds like that’s what he’s doing on the whole mind-body question.


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