The Emergent Self
Hasker (William)
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Amazon Book Description

  1. In The Emergent Self, William Hasker joins one of the most heated debates in analytic philosophy, that over the nature of mind. His provocative and clearly written book challenges physicalist views of human mental functioning and advances the concept of mind as an emergent individual.
  2. Hasker begins by mounting a compelling critique of the dominant paradigm in philosophy of mind, showing that contemporary forms of materialism are seriously deficient in confronting crucial aspects of experience. He further holds that popular attempts to explain the workings of mind in terms of mechanistic physics cannot succeed.
  3. He then criticizes the two versions of substance dualism most widely accepted today ― Cartesian and Thomistic ― and presents his own theory of emergent dualism. Unlike traditional substance dualisms, Hasker's theory recognizes the critical role of the brain and nervous system for mental processes. It also avoids the mechanistic reductionism characteristic of recent materialism.
  4. Hasker concludes by addressing the topic of survival following bodily death. After demonstrating the failure of materialist views to offer a plausible and coherent account of that possibility, he considers the implications of emergentism for notions of resurrection and the afterlife.
  5. William Hasker is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Huntington College. He is the author of God, Time, and Knowledge, also from Cornell.
  6. Reviews
    • "The Emergent Self is valuable not least because it runs so thoroughly against the grain of contemporary philosophy of mind and metaphysics... It will be interesting to see how the internalist Kantians he discusses in this book ― Henry Allison, Marcia Baron, David Cummiskey, Barbara Herman, Thomas Hill, Christine Korsgaard, and Onora O'Neill ― respond to his challenging arguments."
      Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
    • "Hasker presents an engaging and carefully argued account of why most contemporary forms of materialism and dualism fail to explain mind and self. This is the kind of wide-ranging and careful study that deserves a symposium! Highly recommended."
    • "This is the clearest, most systematic and compelling challenge to a materialist philosophy of mind in the current literature. William Hasker develops a series of substantial, well-crafted arguments in the course of articulating a nonreductive account of the self. His book is an outstanding achievement in philosophy of mind."
      Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf College

Amazon Customer Review
  1. There was no question in my mind that this book deserved 5 stars. It is an important addition to the literature in philosophy of mind. As with many such works in philosophy, Hasker spends the first four fifths of his book examining other theories of mind including eliminitavism, mind-brain identity, and various dualisms of both the substance and property variety. He explores their strengths, what motivates them, and their weaknesses. In doing this, he covers more ground and makes finer distinctions than many other recent entries in the field. He is also graciously fair. He takes pains to point out where and why incomplete or even incoherent theories appear reasonable in part. He examines other theories from their own internal viewpoint, what problems they try to solve, as well as in their relation to one another. He extends this fairness to his own theory offered in the last fifth of the book. He assesses not only its strengths compared to its competitors, but also its weaknesses.
  2. Along the way, Hasker understands that epistemological and phenomenological issues have metaphysical implications and he addresses these in some detail as the need arises. He goes a little off the deep end in his last chapter where he tries to show how each of the competing theories of mind might deal with the possibility of life-after-death. He recognizes that in the end, only theologically based theories (which he does not care to explore) can provide a metaphysical ground for some of the implications present in the qualities of mind. His own theory warrants a belief in the reality of libertarian free will agency (for example) but he admits in the end that any theory beginning with the assumption that the physical is the fundamental ground of everything cannot provide any metaphysical ground for it! To his greater credit he recognizes that reaching for quantum mechanics or information theory to provide that ground goes nowhere. He explores both of these moves commonly seen in the recent literature.
  3. I don't agree with Hasker's every conclusion but the depth and breadth of this exploration of recent work in the philosophy of mind is superbly done. Hasker writes well. His arguments are easy to follow. If you have any interest in this philosophical sub-discipline "The Emergent Self" should be a must read.
    → Matthew Rapaport

Book Comment

Baker Academic (1 July 2008), Paperback

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