LAURA KNIGHT-JADCZYK AND JOE QUINN
Since the 9/11 attacks, no book has provided a satisfactory answer as to WHY the attacks occurred and who was ultimately responsible for carrying them out - until now.
It's probably the weirdest puzzle in philosophy: do humans really have free will? (Spoiler alert: I won't be resolving the matter here.) It certainly feels as if we do: at the supermarket, as I reach for some cheddar, it's surely up to me to suddenly change plans and go for wensleydale instead. Yet this seems to violate the laws of science: everything that happens, including in our brains, is caused by earlier events, which are caused by earlier ones, and so on, all the way back to the start of time. There's no room for spontaneous choice, cheese-related or otherwise. The problem has big implications: if we don't have free will, for example, does that mean we shouldn't punish murderers? So it was unnerving to learn about a study suggesting people's beliefs on the subject change when they're tired, sexually aroused or need to urinate. All three conditions, the psychologists Roy Baumeister and Michael Ent concluded, make us less likely to believe free will's real.It's good to keep in mind that there are big holes in hard determinism and the materialistic worldview. It flies in the face of common sense, as philosopher Thomas Nagel has stated in his book Mind and Cosmos. Still it seems that our free will is somehow limited. Recent cognitive science studies have shed light on this topic and improved the understanding of how our mind works.
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."What's afforded this passage such staying power is not only its haunting poetry, but the worldview it expresses - however hard we may try to reinvent ourselves, we're doomed to remain captives of our pasts. Another celebrated author, William Faulkner, put it this way:
"The past is never dead. It's not even past."Eugene O'Neill penned these words:
"There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now."Throughout its history, many in the field of psychotherapy have been similarly pessimistic about people's ability to liberate themselves from the past. It can even be argued that most modern cognitive-behavioral approaches are based on the assumption that, at best, therapists can only incrementally create new emotional and behavioral habits that work around - but don't actually transform - the deep-seated emotional programming that causes clients' most visceral distress. This way of thinking, however, doesn't reflect our current understanding of how memory functions, nor do the therapeutic approaches that aim simply to manage or circumvent entrenched emotions, beliefs, and behaviors rooted in painful past experiences.