Underestimating the World

Journal of Consciousness Studies (forthcoming)
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Galen Strawson has contrasting attitudes to consciousness and free will. In the case of the former, he says it is a fundamental element of nature whose denial is the “greatest woo-woo of the human mind.” In the case of the latter, by contrast, he says it is not merely non-existent but “provably impossible.” Why the difference? This paper suggests this distinctive pattern of positions is generated by underestimating the world (to adapt a phrase Strawson uses himself in another context). If you underestimate the world, and correlatively overestimate your level of understanding of the world, it is natural to think both that consciousness is fundamental, and that free will is non-existent. If you don’t underestimate the world, on the other hand, a more uniform and attractive treatment of these topics becomes available.

Author's Profile

Daniel Stoljar
Australian National University


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