How Physics Makes Us Free

How Physics Makes Us Free

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Description

In 1687 Isaac Newton ushered in a new scientific era in which laws of nature could be used to predict the movements of matter with almost perfect precision. Newton's physics also posed a profound challenge to our self-understanding, however, for the very same laws that keep airplanes in the air and rivers flowing downhill tell us that it is in principle possible to predict what each of us will do every second of our entire lives, given the early conditions of the
universe.

Can it really be that even while you toss and turn late at night in the throes of an important decision and it seems like the scales of fate hang in the balance, that your decision is a foregone conclusion? Can it really be that everything you have done and everything you ever will do is determined by facts that were in place long before you were born? This problem is one of the staples of philosophical discussion. It is discussed by everyone from freshman in their first philosophy class, to
theoretical physicists in bars after conferences. And yet there is no topic that remains more unsettling, and less well understood.

If you want to get behind the facade, past the bare statement of determinism, and really try to understand what physics is telling us in its own terms, read this book. The problem of free will raises all kinds of questions. What does it mean to make a decision, and what does it mean to say that our actions are determined? What are laws of nature? What are causes? What sorts of things are we, when viewed through the lenses of physics, and how do we fit into the natural order? Ismael
provides a deeply informed account of what physics tells us about ourselves. The result is a vision that is abstract, alien, illuminating, and-Ismael argues-affirmative of most of what we all believe about our own freedom. Written in a jargon-free style, How Physics Makes Us Free provides an accessible and
innovative take on a central question of human existence.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 174 x 240 x 26mm | 569g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 6
  • 0190269448
  • 9780190269449
  • 684,446

Table of contents

Preface

Part I: Selves in Nature
O A clash of facades
1 What am I?
2 The rise of the Self-governor
3 The Unity of the self

Part II: Human Action and the Natural Order
4 How can I be free if my actions are determined by physical laws? The Consequence
Argument
5 How can I be free if my actions are caused by things outside my control? Causation
6 The Open Future
7 The Paradox of Predictability
8 Self-Constitution; the making of the self

Glossary
Works Cited
Suggestions for Further Reading
Index
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Review quote

[a] very welcome contribution to this literature. * John Maier, Australasian Journal of Philosophy. * Jenann Ismael's book is a strikingly original monograph that somehow manages to be perfectly relevant and highly engaging to both the intelligent lay reader and the professional philosopher. It shows how well done philosophy of science can be relevant for the public at large, even when treating questions that have, of late, suffered from the ravages of analytic metaphysics. The book may be more widely read inside the academy than outside, but those on the outside who
read it in full will surely come away with a better opinion of philosophy than they had at the start. Ismael's prose is beautiful, evocative, and full of helpful metaphors and analogies ... It is a book that nobody who cares about how human freedom squares with modern physicalism can afford to
ignore. * Carl Hoefer, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews Online *
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About J. T. Ismael

J.T. Ismael is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona. She is the author of The Situated Self (OUP, 2007) and Essays on Symmetry (2001).
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Rating details

44 ratings
3.75 out of 5 stars
5 27% (12)
4 34% (15)
3 30% (13)
2 5% (2)
1 5% (2)
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