International Society for Philosophers

International Society for Philosophers

Wisdom begins with wonder

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728


Issue No. 194 11th June 2015


Edited by Richard Grego

I. 'Beethoven the Philosopher: A Reflection' by Linda Brown Holt

II. 'The Metaphysics of Bergson: A Critical Examination' by Ayodeji W. Adesoye

III. 'The Ambiguity and Existentialism of Human Sexuality in The Unbearable Lightness of Being' by John Hansen

IV. 'Compatibilism, Physicalism, the Consequence Argument, and Criminal Responsibility in a Retributive Justice System' by Richard Grego



One particularly intriguing way to explore philosophical themes is to examine how they have emerged and reemerged in various ways throughout the history of western civilization. The essays in this issue of Philosophy Pathways share perspectives on how the idea of conscious 'agency' and 'free will' has been conceived in mediums as diverse as music, metaphysics, literature, and jurisprudence during the course of western intellectual history. They examine ways in which these mediums have both configured and been configured by conceptions of agency and free will from the Enlightenment to the present day.

The first essay on 'Beethoven the Philosopher' by Dr Linda Brown Holt looks at the little-known but surprisingly pervasive influence of German Enlightenment and Idealist philosophies on the artistic development of Ludwig Von Beethoven's work at the turn of the 18th/ 19th centuries. While Beethoven's musical transition from exemplar of classicism to pioneer of the romantic style is well known, the possible role that contemporaneous philosophical themes like freedom and potentiality ---- characteristic of the romantic era ethos -- may have played in inspiring this transition is little-examined and largely unappreciated in the history of ideas. The essay establishes a philosophical genealogy suggesting that this philosophical trend, through the legacy of prominent professors at the university where Beethoven studied philosophy, may have exerted a significant formative influence on Beethoven's psychology and work.

In a similar vein, the second essay on 'The Metaphysics of Bergson' by Ayodeji W. Adesoye analyzes, among other things, how concern with metaphysical foundations of consciousness and volition also shaped the development of Henri Bergson's neo-romantic concept of vitalism at the turn of the 19th/ 20th centuries (which, in turn, anticipated intellectual movements from post-structuralism and Gestalt psychology to phenomenology and existentialism). Bergson's notions like 'intuition', 'duration', and 'elan vital', all establish an intimate relationship between free will, conscious experience, and the fabric of reality itself. However, as the essay concludes, whether this relationship as Bergson describes it is a tenable one, remains an open question.

These same themes, with respect to Nietzsche's famous principle of 'eternal return' or 'eternal recurrence', are highlighted in 20th century literary giant Milan Kundera's renowned novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being (and in the movie adaptation starring Daniel Day Lewis) which is the subject of the essay by John Hansen on 'The Ambiguity and Existentialism of Human Sexuality in Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being'. While Nietzsche's concepts of identity, consciousness and freedom were conceived contemporaneously with those of Bergson at the end of the 19th century and share similar concerns, Nietzsche's idea of eternal recurrence, as the essay points out, leads to very different conclusions about them -- and these, in turn, are reflected in Kundera's interpretation. The implications of eternal recurrence for existential freedom and self-identity inform Kundera's vision of sexuality and human relations throughout the novel, just as they have informed our conception of these experiences in the contemporary intellectual milieu generally. (We also see a brief mention of Beethoven's philosophical relevance yet again in this essay.) Hopefully, this interpretive insight will encourage philosophers unfamiliar with the novel to read it for themselves.

Finally, the role of free will, consciousness, and volition in western jurisprudence -- from the dawn of modernity to the present -- is addressed in my essay, 'Compatibilism, Physicalism, the Consequence Argument, and Criminal Responsibility in a Retributive Justice System'. If, as the essay contends, a common sense folk-psychological libertarian notion of personal agency underwrites moral and legal responsibility in our criminal justice system, then 'compatibilist' attempts to explain away libertarian free will via the genetic, cognitive, behavioral and neuro-sciences cannot be reconciled with how we conceive and dispense criminal justice -- despite claims by compatibilists that our justice system does not require libertarian free will in order to attribute legal responsibility to volitional agents.

Here then are four case-studies in philosophy's role as a diverse and interdisciplinary cultural force in western intellectual history from the Enlightenment to the present. Hopefully they will add some new dimension of insight to the reader's knowledge of the works, ideas, thinkers or institutions that they examine and/ or encourage philosophers to engage them more deeply, or for the first time.

(c) Richard Grego 2015


About the editor: https:---




We imagine the musical giant, who lived from 1770 to 1827, as a man of passions, impulses, and creative fire thriving in an age of revolution and rebellion. Portraits of the composer show a man in torment, scowling, his unruly hair a-flutter, jaw braced in determination, but also filled with self-confidence and daring.

One word, though, that does not spring to mind in describing Beethoven is, 'philosopher.' Before the modern age, to be a philosopher was to be deliberative, pondering, searching rationally for answers to life's questions.

And yet, evidence from the time indeed shows us that Beethoven was not only the rebel who liberated music and smashed a few keyboards along the way. He was also, and perhaps was preeminently, a philosopher.

Beethoven was born in what some regard as the golden age of German philosophical thought. The mathematical philosophy of Leibnitz early in the 18th century was followed by the contributions of Kant, Lessing, Moses Mendelssohn, Herder, and Fichte. As the Enlightenment spawned Idealism and morphed into Romanticism, inquiring minds throughout the German states debated the major philosophical issues of the day. Philosophy was not simply the province of the academic community, but of Freemasons and the active network of anti-clerical Illuminati. When the Illuminati were banned, the hunger for philosophical debate redirected to Reading Societies (Lesegesellschaften) whose members argued about the relative merits of pure reason versus utilitarianism, and other topics.

It is commonly thought that Beethoven was raised in poverty, had little schooling, and was ignorant of the ways of the intellectual world. We think of him as a kind of wild child, forced to practice music for long hours and regularly beaten or locked in the cellar in futile attempts to curb his unruliness. This is only partly correct. It is true, his family was poor, there was evidence of child abuse, and he was taken out of school before he was 10.

But Beethoven's introduction to philosophy came steadily and regularly. He was born and raised in Bonn, the seat of the court of Elector Maximilian Friedrich, in the Holy Roman Empire. Friedrich was a ruler known for his support of learning and culture. During Beethoven's youth, the Elector was succeeded by Maximilian Franz, also notable for his support of intellectual freedom and the arts. Beethoven's grandfather had been the Kapellmeister, a leadership position in the court chapel, and Beethoven's father, Johann, remained a court tenor until defeated by alcoholism. Although the official religion was Roman Catholic, there were plenty of Protestant influences in the small, close-knit community, possibly including Grandfather Beethoven and certainly Christian Neefe, the teacher and mentor who molded the young Beethoven from scalawag to young man of the world. Neefe was, for a time, director of the Bonn Illuminati, a position which linked him directly with a 'who's who' of the leading intellectuals of the German-speaking states (the conservative Jacobi, the poet Goethe, the Viennese librarian and court physician, van Swieten, etc.)[1] Religious and philosophical tolerance was the hallmark of the era of the two Maxes, at least until the French Revolution spilled over onto German soil.

Downtown Bonn at that time was a compact metropolis of 10,000 souls hard by the Rhine, a little over a mile square. Within this concise neighborhood were the sprawling court complex, the Minster, assorted other schools and churches, theaters, restaurants, bars, and the ever-changing location of the Beethoven home, as the composer's family moved uptown and downtown as their fortunes rose and fell (most frequently the latter).

As a boy who began studying with Neefe when he was around nine, Beethoven was immersed in the culture of the time, of which philosophy was the crown jewel. When he was unofficially adopted by the prosperous von Breuning family in his teens, Beethoven was scrubbed, cleaned up, fitted with good clothes, even had his hair cut, but most important in his transformation into philosopher was his exposure in the von Breuning household to books, visiting scholars and other intellectuals, and the lively conversation about current issues undertaken with the privileged von Breuning children and Beethoven's BFF, Franz Gerhard Wegeler, soon to become a medical professor at the new University of Bonn (and later, spouse to the only female von Breuning sibling, Eleonore). Furthermore, Beethoven encountered the heady world of intellectual life in his full-time job as assistant organist (to Neefe), and later violist in the Elector's orchestra. The orchestra, after all, included the hornist Nikolaus Simrock and violinist Franz Anton Ries, both extraordinary thinkers and Illuminati (later Reading Society) members. Even the local theater impresario, Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Grossman (1743-1796), served as Superior of the Bonn Illuminati before Neefe.[2]

By this time, Beethoven was reading the classics avidly, especially fond of Homer but also the modern poets, Goethe and Schiller. He was so swept up in the exciting intellectual life of Bonn that in 1789, at the age of 18, Beethoven matriculated in philosophy at the University of Bonn along with several of his friends. Here it is expected he attended lectures, probably including those of Peter Joseph van der Schnuren, an avid Kantian. According to Rumph, Franz Wilhelm Freiherr von Spiegel, the head of the university who had appointed van der Schnuren, had studied with Kant's leading disciple, Carl Leonhard Reinhold[3], also an Illuminatus. The year 1789 was smack-dab in the middle of three major Kantian Critiques (Pure Reason, 2nd edition, 1787; Practical Reason, 1788; and Judgment, 1790).[4]

Let's take a look at the fledgling University where the mere grade-school graduate hobnobbed with some of the leading thinkers of the age. The first sparks of a University had been kindled in 1777 from the ashes of Max Friedrich's Academy, funded in part by the coffers of the by-then-abolished Jesuits.[5] In its early years, lectures taught by Minorites, Benedictines, and Carmelites were offered from November through September. After engaging a professor of medicine named Rougemont[6] who had impressive credentials from Paris and Lyons, a step up academically from the local monastics, the government considered creating a true University. With the death of Max Friedrich and the installation of Max Franz, the University of Bonn was inaugurated in 1786 (Beethoven was 15 at the time). Franz Wilhelm Freiherr von Spiegel, who had studied law at Louvain and Gottingen, was appointed curator in 1789. A rector was elected every year thereafter at an institution that pledged to offer the title of doctor to all qualified men, regardless of their religious beliefs.[7]

A profile of the faculty and student body exists for 1792, up to three years after Beethoven's tenure, which gives us a sense of areas of study. The faculty were divided as following: theology, six; law, eight; medicine, four; philosophy, eight; and language, two. For the year 1791-92, the student body was divided among these disciplines: theology, 39; medicine, 95; law, 46; philosophy, 28 (no word about language).[8] From these statistics, we can infer that philosophy was a significant area of study, the only non-professional pursuit after medicine, law, and theology. (Although preparation for an academic career in philosophy could be considered professional education)

Two of the faculty seem to have had some significant influence on Beethoven's development as a thinker. Bartholomaus Ludwig Fischenich (1768-1831) was appointed professor of constitutional and natural law shortly after Beethoven's time at the University, but the two men came to know each other well. Fischenich had been born in Bonn and was only two years older than the composer. According to Rumph, Fischenich informed his colleagues at Jena that the Bonn faculty (law, theology, philosophy) was enthusiastically devoted to Kantian ideals.[9]

During a study year in Jena, Fischenich became friends with Schiller and his wife Charlotte, avid Kantians, and reportedly spent time reading the Critique of Practical Reason with them on a daily basis. In a 1793 letter to Charlotte Schiller, Fischenich notes that Beethoven hopes to set Schiller's An die Freude to music, little realizing that some 30 years later, that idea will hatch into the finale of the Ninth Symphony. 'I expect something splendid,' he wrote, 'for, from what I know of him, he is interested only in what is great and noble.'[10]

Another professor who made his mark on the composer was the firebrand Eulogius Schneider (1756-1794), appointed a professor in 1789, the year of Beethoven's matriculation. Schneider had a particular attraction as a young man to the poetry of Christian Furchtegott Gellert, whose songs Beethoven put to music as 'Six Lieder' Op. 48. A monk and theologian specializing in classical literature, he has been described as a demagogue, impatient for reform, and passionate about the French Revolution. Beethoven, his friends, and even the Elector subscribed to a book of poems filled with revolutionary fervor that Schneider published in 1790. Yet even Max Franz could be only so tolerant: in 1791 Schneider was dismissed from the university. According to Sipe, Schneider then relocated to Strassburg where he translated the Marseillaise into German and supported the Terror, even traveling with his own portable guillotine.[11] Ironically, it was a guillotine which ended his life in 1794.

Clearly there were many profound influences on a young composer's consciousness as he moved from his teens into young manhood. There are also surprising clues in the literature of the time regarding young Beethoven's personality. Until he left for Vienna in 1791, Beethoven is described by various first-hand sources as good-natured and affable, more of the image of a (then) modern philosopher and confident thinker than a tormented artist and rebel. For example, when he was 20, Beethoven and the rest of the court orchestra joined the Elector on a two-month trip on the Rhine to Mergentheim and other cities in what is now Germany. Records indicate he not only was a popular member of the crew (even serving as kitchen scullion along with his friend, Bernhard Romberg, the cellist), but there are also testimonials as to his modest, warm, and friendly personality. Abbe Sterkel wrote that Beethoven played some piano variations 'in an ingratiating manner,' while Carl Ludwig Junker, Chaplain at Kirchberg, called him 'the dear, good Bethofen (sp)' and praised him as 'an amiable, light-hearted man.'[12]

After leaving the University at an unknown time, Beethoven continued to frequent the Reading Society get-togethers to debate ideas and discuss forbidden political topics while enjoying the atmosphere of the Widow Koch's cafe on the Dreieck Platz just north of the Minster.

Possibly influenced by Freemason literature containing Far Eastern sources, Beethoven's interests extended to Egyptian and Indian philosophical tracts once he made his home in Vienna, never to return to Bonn. Until his death, he kept framed mottos from those works on his desk, such as, 'I am all that is; all that was; and all that shall be. No mortal man hath my veil uplifted,' supposedly taken from a Temple of Isis inscription at Sais in Egypt[13]. And as deafness, near-sightedness, and various medical afflictions increasingly made his life a living hell, he turned to the stoics of ancient philosophy for solace and strength. In his daybook, kept when he was in his late 40s, Beethoven speaks often of resignation, the fruit of a lifetime steeped in philosophy. Is this the key to the cryptic words, 'Must it be? It must be!' scrawled on the score of his last quartet?

One of the candidates for 'Immortal Beloved' honors, Bettina Brentano (1785 to 1859), was herself an intellectual intrigued by the arguments of philosophy and skilled in word play with some of the leading artists and thinkers of her time. In a letter to Goethe in 1810, she quoted Beethoven as saying, 'Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.' Many have dismissed this remark as hyperbole, or simply untrue. But I think they are imagining the emotional Beethoven of heroic lore. The real Beethoven was a man formed by the philosophical ideas of world culture. To liken music to philosophy, he needed to know philosophy. And there are all indications that he did.


1. Melanson, Terry, Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati, Trine Day, 2009, p. 370.

2. Ibid, p. 312

3. Rumph, Stephen, Beethoven after Napoleon: Political Romanticism in the Late Works, California Studies in 19th-Century Music, 2004.

4. Kant's Writing, University of Manchester, http:---

5. It is sometimes reported that Beethoven was taught at the Tirocinium by Jesuits, but their order had been abolished by the Papal Bull of 1773 when he was but two. See Christian Adolph Pescheck, Daniel Benham, The Reformation and Anti-reformation in Bohemia, Volume 2, http:---. We may safely assume that “plain clothes Jesuits,” not the black-robed monastics of legend, were responsible for the composer's grade-school education.
6. Circular[s] of Information, Issue 3, United States Bureau of Education, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1882. Accessed at http:---

7. Circular[s] of Information, Issue 3, United States Bureau of Education, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1882. Accessed at http:---

8. Ibid.

9. Rumph, ibid.

10. Clive, H.P., Beethoven and His World: A Biographical Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2001. Accessed at http:---

11. Sipe, Thomas, Beethoven: Eroica Symphony, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

12. Thayer, Alexander Wheelock, Life of Beethoven, Book I, Princeton University Press, Revised Edition, 1991.

13. Historic Magazine and Notes and Queries: A Monthly of History, Folk-lore, Mathematics, Literature, Art, Arcane Societies, Etc, Volume 8, 1891 (Google eBook) http:---

(c) Linda Holt 2015


Linda Brown Holt, D.Litt., is an adjunct professor of Humanities at Southern New Hampshire University and is a Liberal Studies graduate mentor and capstone coordinator with Thomas Edison State College. She is the author of Viewing Meister Eckhart through the Bhagavad Gita and a new novel, The Black Spaniard (Beethoven the Young Master) to be published in the 2015-16 publishing cycle. Excerpts of the novel and other adventures in publishing may be found at http:---.




Bergson bases knowledge of the nature of reality on the intuition one has of one's own self. According to him 'there is one reality, at least, which we all seize from within, by intuition and not by simple analysis. It is our own personality through time -- our own self which endures.' Upon this he establishes his idea of reality as duration. This essay attempts a critical examination of the metaphysics of Henri Bergson. I first offer a lucid, critical discussion of the tenets involved, and thereafter attempt an appraisal of them. It is suggested in this paper that though Bergson offers a theory of reality that seems to explain the apparent fact of ordered growth, his notion of duration may be flawed by certain difficulties.


Metaphysical questions are of a wide range but attempts in addressing each of them are of a wider, very diverse range. The approach of Henri Bergson to the question of reality is the business of this paper. Henri Bergson (along with Alfred North Whitehead) represents the metaphysical interest that survived Kant's criticism and continued to dominate much of the nineteenth century thought. His metaphysics sprouted out directly from the controversy between materialism and vitalism, which was the major issue in the late nineteenth century, and was an attempt to employ scientific findings to ground some essentially antiscientific conception of reality (Jones and Fogelin 1952: 15). As will be seen as this paper progresses, Bergson's metaphysics was 'Romantic' in its emphasis on dynamism and continuity; in its denial of the capacity of reason to know the inner nature of reality; and in its assertion that reality can nevertheless be known -- in intuition. This represents an affinity between Bergson's thought and Arthur Schopenhauer's, though Bergson differed in some significant respect from Schopenhauer (majorly in the latter's exaggerated pessimism).

The metaphysics of Bergson, as well as the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and John Dewey, three philosophers of the same period of birth, epoch, culture and outlook on life, is what is called philosophy of progress. Bergson took the theory of evolution seriously as a doctrine of progress. His philosophy grew out at a time just when modern science was reaching its most impressive heights. Bergson's interest was not to deny that the method of science had yielded much for man's control of nature and ipso facto, that science was a brilliant enterprise. What mattered to Bergson was a philosophical question -- is reality what science assumed it to be? (Stumpf 1971: 395) This question was against the backdrop that science had assumed that reality, or things-in-nature is composed of matter in space, and is a large mechanism whereby, matter is the final irreducible stuff from which all things are formed. The implication of this is that human nature was defined in material and mechanistic terms, thereby 'dislodging' out of man the possibility of being free, of possessing freedom of the will. Since Bergson was concerned with a philosophy of progress, he conceived a need to ask how inert matter can overcome static status and evolve. In this wise, Bergson's attempt was to reveal the puzzle that science itself generated in his time -- the belief in a material and mechanical world and the acceptance of evolution theory.

Bergson was a French philosopher born in Paris in 1859. His works include Time and Freewill (1889), Matter and Memory (1911), An Introduction to Metaphysics (1903), Creative Evolution (1907) and The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932). In what follows, his metaphysical notions of the limit of conceptual knowledge, duration; the very nature of reality, and the elan vital, are set forth in critical tone. Our argument thereafter indicates some inherent problems in Bergson's discourse about reality.

The Limit of Conceptual Knowledge

Metaphysics is the inquiry into the basic structure of reality. It seems that Bergson could not talk about what reality is except he had cleared the way of true access to it. He took a different point of view from traditional philosophy on the way of knowing true reality. Another way of saying this is that Bergson constructed his metaphysics from his epistemology. What we might call his epistemology is the distinction Bergson drew between conceptual knowledge (knowledge by analysis) and intuition on the one hand, and the knowledge of the relative and of the absolute, on the other hand. For Bergson, conceptual knowledge is defective because it stops at the relative, in contrast to intuition which Bergson claimed to be able to attain the absolute. At the heart of Bergson's thought, therefore, is the contention that there are two ways of knowing. But the difference, it appears, is basically in pragmatic terms. One way can get to reality while the other can only go round it, not getting unto the very nature of it. Conceptual knowledge achieves knowledge of reality ironically by destroying the object's essence. The essence of an object is its dynamic, thriving, pulsing, living and continuing existence -- its duration. In Bergson's own words:

     [There are] two profoundly different ways of knowing a
     thing. The first implies that we move around the object;
     the second that we enter into it. The first depends on the
     point of view at which we are placed and on the symbols by
     which we express ourselves. The second neither depends on a
     point of view nor relies on any symbol. The first kind of
     knowledge may be said to stop at the relative; the second,
     in those cases where it is possible, to attain the absolute
     (Bergson 1903: 1).

The foregoing portrays the distinction Bergson drew between analysis and intuition. The first way that involves moving round the object is analysis, while the other that implies that we enter the object is intuition. One peculiarity of analysis is that it depends on two things namely, points of view and symbols of expression. Analysis yields knowledge derived largely from the vantage point from which we observe the object. As such, this mode of knowledge will yield knowledge that will be different for each observer and on that account be relative. The knowledge so derived is again, expressed in symbols. Symbols used in the expression of knowledge discovered through analysis can refer not only to the specific object but any and all similar objects. The symbols do not refer exclusively to the object but are ways of describing the unfamiliar object by pointing to other similar, familiar objects.

Bergson formulated a number of examples to illustrate the limit of analysis and the raison-d'etre for preferring intuition. First, he wants us to observe the movement of an object in space. My observation of this object will vary with the point of view from which the object is observed; moving, stationary, sitting, squatting etc. In the bid to describe this motion, my expression of it will vary according to the point of reference to which I relate it. Thus, in observing and reporting the observation of the moving object, I am placed outside of it. For instance, I think of a line that is divided into units when I describe the moving object, and express this through the symbol of a graph with its axes, a series of points through which the object is thought to move. Now for Bergson, this typifies a movement round the moving object and not into it, and leads ultimately to the relative. But in contrast, an absolute movement involves attributing to the moving object some interior states of mind. This is the condition of sympathy in which one sympathizes with those internal states, and inserts oneself in them by an effort of imagination. By doing this, one would then know the object as it really is and moves and not only as translated into symbolic language of points and units of distances. The idea is that what one experiences will depend neither on the point of view he may take up in regard of object since he is inside the object itself, nor on the symbols by which one may translate the motion since all translation have been rejected in order to possess the original. According to Bergson, by entering the object itself 'I shall no longer grasp the movement from without, remaining where I am, but from where it is, from within, as it is itself. I shall possess the original.' (Bergson 1903: 1)

Bergson distinguishes also between reading about a character in a novel and being that character himself. Bergson contends that no matter how the character is described by the author, such description cannot match what will be delivered to him should he be able for a moment to be the person of that character himself. Being the character or the moving object in space is what Bergson called 'coinciding' with the person or thing (Bergson 1903: 2).

From the foregoing, Bergson argues that the absolute can be given only in intuition, while every other thing is come by through analysis. He wrote:

     It follows from this that an absolute could only be given
     in an intuition, while everything else falls within the
     province of analysis. By intuition is meant the kind of
     intellectual sympathy by which one places oneself within an
     object in order to coincide with what is unique in it and
     consequently inexpressible. Analysis, on the contrary, is
     the operation which reduces the object to elements already
     known, that is, to elements common to both of it and other
     objects. To analyze, therefore, is to express a thing as a
     function of something other than itself. All analysis is
     thus a translation, a development into symbols, a
     representation taken from successive points of view... In
     its eternally unsatisfied desire to embrace the object
     around which it is compelled to turn, analysis multiplies
     without end the number of its points of view... and
     ceaselessly varies its symbols that it may perfect the
     always imperfect translation. It goes on therefore to
     infinity. But intuition if it is possible, is a simple act
     (Bergson 1903: 2).

Description and analysis require the employment of symbols, but symbols are imperfect in comparison with the object of which a view has been taken, or which the symbols seek to express (Stumpf 1971: 398). Bergson calls several analogies to service. Not all photographs of Paris, taken from every conceivable point of view would ever be equivalent to the solid Paris in which people live and move; not even motion pictures would do. Likewise, not all the translations of a poem could render the inner meaning of the original. Thus, of the object there is a specific quality of being original, and this original we can know absolutely only by entering into it. Should we opt for analysis, i.e. translation or copy, then we should be contended with the relative that points of view and symbols are capable of delivering to the mind (Stumpf 1971: 399).

For Bergson, we will see that scientific reasoning, inasmuch as it relies on analysis, falsifies the nature of whatever object it analyses. In science according to him, analysis reduces the object to elements already known, to elements common to it and several other objects. Thus,

     ... the analytic intellect learns, ironically, by
     destroying the object's essence. Its essence is its
     dynamic, thriving, pulsing, living, continuing existence --
     its duration. Analysis however interrupts this essential
     duration; it stops life and movement; it separates into
     several independent and static parts what in true life is a
     unified, organic and dynamic reality (Stumpf 1971: 399).

Thus, we can derive the knowledge of an ant by analysis, taking it apart, but in this manner, the ant is no longer the living thing it was in its burrow in the ground. The same is said of the psychologist who will not study the self as a single, indivisible, living and dynamic entity but split it up into mental states. By doing this, science kills the object, takes the pulsing life out of it, and divides it into several distinct parts that its symbols of expression would be able to handle -- all this by analysis. The fallout of this is that the essence of the thing has been destroyed. The essence is continuity, life and dynamism. But we can ask a fundamental question here. What could be meant when one says that the essence of reality is destroyed? Is it that the essence itself is destroyed or that the mind has no true or full grasp of the essence because of the method it deploys? The latter may be granted. But an affirmative answer to the former will produce further questions. For example, can essence cease to be?

Another important edge intuition enjoys over analysis is its ability to show how contraries i.e. thesis and antithesis are reconciled into the same reality. A fundamental thesis in Bergson is the rejection of conceptual knowledge rooted in the conviction that concepts falsify a continuous real by dividing it. This is in view of the nature of reality as duration, a continuous flow, which is creative and of great fecundity. People can have direct access to the nature of this reality only by jumping into it without perspectives or representations -- by intuition. Likewise, contraries (thesis and antithesis) could only be known to not be radical opposites but just parts of the same inner nature or reality through intuition. According to Bergson:

     Concepts... generally go together in couples and represent
     two contraries. There is hardly any concrete reality which
     cannot be observed from two opposing standpoints, which
     cannot consequently be subsumed under two antagonistic
     concepts (for example, the self is both a unity and a
     multiplicity). Hence a thesis and an antithesis which we
     endeavor in vain to reconcile logically, for the very
     reason that it is impossible, with concepts and
     observations taken from outside points of view, to make a
     thing. But from the object, seized by intuition, we pass
     easily in many cases to contrary concepts; and as in that
     way thesis and antithesis can be seen to spring from
     reality, we grasp at the same time how it is that the two
     are opposed and how they are reconciled (Bergson 1903: 21).

According to Jones and Fogelin (1952), the opinion expressed in the last few sentences obviously refers to Hegel's account of thought as a triadic movement from thesis to antithesis to synthesis. Bergson believed that though Hegel was correct in aiming at unity, not being satisfied with plurality and diversity, he was, nevertheless, mistaken in holding that the same cognitive process that develops the contradictions can resolve them. 'To reconcile thesis and antithesis, a radically different kind of cognitive process is needed', which is intuition (Jones and Fogelin 1952: 20).

The Nature of Reality

At this juncture, it seems that the right question to ask is: 'what reality is delivered in intuition?' Bergson bases his knowledge of the nature of reality on the intuition one has of one's own self. According to him 'there is one reality, at least, which we all seize from within, by intuition and not by simple analysis. It is our own personality through time -- our own self which endures' (Bergson 1903: 3). We are to look within therefore, and what we find when we do so is what Bergson called 'duration', 'mobility' and life. Thus, the nature of reality delivered in intuition is duration (continuity and change). What we find is an experience of change, not of states that change or of things of changing properties, but change itself. In the experience of the self, the past infiltrates the present through and through. This experience of duration, according to Bergson is private and inexpressible conceptually, very difficult to achieve. In this regard, Bergson wrote that

     I find, first of all, that I pass from state to state. I am
     warm or cold, I am merry or sad, I work or I do nothing, I
     look at what is around me or I think of something else...
     I change, then without ceasing. But this is not saying
     enough. Change is far more radical than we are first
     inclined to suppose (Bergson 1907: 1).

That Bergson constructed his metaphysics from the immediate knowledge of the self is replica of Descartes' system. But Bergson differs from Descartes in certain respects. Descartes constructed a system of rationalism from his own idea of the self while Bergson thought that such system is misleading, and extended the realm of intuition beyond the self to the nature of reality in general. In this regard, we can adequately say that while Descartes was a dualist in respect of the self and the world, Bergson posited monism, in which the essence of the self is identical with the essence of reality in general -- duration. But in certain other regards, Bergson himself is a dualist of matter and life. It should be noted that not only Descartes had such a starting point for philosophy. Such is typical also of post-Kantian views of the self as activity and not static, encapsulated substance. This was a view shared by Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietszche (Jones and Fogelin 1952: 22). But Bergson parted from these philosophers because his view was fundamentally influenced by his understanding of the theory of evolution. According to Jones:

     What impressed Bergson about this theory was not the
     struggle for survival but the emergence of new forms of
     life; what caught his imagination was the vision of a great
     energy pouring itself forth in endless fecundity, instead of
     being confined to a few eternal archetypes (Jones and
     Fogelin 1952: 22).

Bergson transferred this cosmic vision to the lived experience of the individual; the self as revealed in intuition, he contended, is the continuous unfolding of new experiences that includes and incorporates the past while moving steadily into the future.

Bergson's motive in metaphysics therefore, is to argue that metaphysics should deploy intuition, that is, go beyond concepts in accessing reality because concepts divide and destroy the nature of duration i.e. its continuity, dynamism, and creativeness (fecundity). Bergson said for instance that:

     Metaphysics... is only truly itself when it goes beyond the
     concept, or at least when it frees itself from rigid and
     ready-made concepts in order to create a kind very
     different from those we habitually use; I mean supple,
     mobile, and almost fluid representatives, always ready to
     mould themselves on the fleeting forms of intuition
     (Bergson 1903: 21).

Here, metaphysics contrasts heavily with positive science. The ordinary function of positive science, according to Bergson, is analysis. But if there is any means of possessing a reality absolutely instead of knowing it relatively; of placing oneself within it instead of looking at it from outside points of view; of seizing it (reality) without any expression, translation, or symbolic representation; metaphysics is that means. What then is metaphysics? For Bergson,

     metaphysics, then, is the science which claims to dispense
     with symbols (Bergson 1903: 3).

The concept of 'duration' is one of very important two that form the pillar of Bergson's metaphysics. The other one is 'elan vital'. The elan vital is used to explain evolution, that is to account for the great energy pouring itself forth in endless fecundity, instead of being confined to a few eternal archetypes. We will consider these notions in turn.


Bergson, pointing to the nature of reality as duration, has said that 'the inner life is all this at once: varieties of qualities, continuity of progress, and unity of direction' (Bergson 1903: 4). Thus, to think in intuition is to think in duration. The inner life is compared by Bergson to a continual rolling up like a thread on a ball, for our past follows us, it swells incessantly with the present that it picks up on its way, and consciousness means memory. Bergson contended that no image can be used to replace the intuition of duration.

At the core of Bergson's thought is the process of duration. He criticized traditional philosophical systems for failing to take 'duration' or 'becoming' seriously. Bergson criticized the rationalist and the empiricist that neither of them took the matter of mobility, development, becoming and duration seriously. The primacy Bergson placed on duration is explained in his statement that 'to think in duration' means to have a true grasp of reality. Thinking in duration also gives us a more accurate notion of time; real, continuous time, as compared with the 'spatialized' time created by the intellect (Stumpf 1971: 401). Bergson displaced Zeno's paradoxes against the reality of motion, saying that only when we conceive of time and motion in 'spatialized' terms do we have trouble with such paradoxes. Bergson contended that although the intellect can grasp static parts, it is incapable of grasping movement or duration. In other words, there is no way we can truly understand evolution by the method of analysis, or when we conceive of it in spatially static and split terms, but only when we grasp it as a whole, as a simple, immediate reality. Reality is duration. According to Bergson, reality does not consist of things, but only things in the making; not self-maintaining states, but only changing states (Stumpf 1971: 401). In short, for Bergson, reality is tendency; rest is only apparent. That is, reality is an ever living propensity to change or evolve.

Elan Vital

Elan vital is a concept Bergson used to address the question of self-organization and spontaneous morphogenesis of things in an increasingly complex manner. Elan vital is translated into English as the 'vital impulse' and is a hypothetical explanation for evolution and development of organism, which Bergson linked closely with consciousness.

According to Bergson, evolution is best explained in terms of a vital impulse,-- the elan vital, which drives all organisms towards constantly more complicated and higher modes of organization (Stumpf 1971: 402). The elan vital means the essential interior element of all living beings, and is a creative power that moves in unbroken continuity through all things. There is a certain essential relationship between the elan vital and duration. The elan vital is the essence of duration, of movement, and all change, which is absolutely indivisible. The elan vital motivates or drives all things; it is the fundamental reality. In the elan vital, the structure and movement of reality is encoded as in the DNA biological data are said to be encoded. And in it evolutionary progress is to be understood. The truth that intuition discovers about reality is that reality is continuous and thus, cannot be reduced to parts, and that the creative process caused by the elan vital is absolutely irreversible (Stumpf 1971: 402).

Bergson held that the vital impulse moved in three directions, producing vegetable beings, anthropoids, and vertebrates including man. He contended, more importantly, that the elan vital must itself resemble consciousness. He posited that where life and its creative possibilities emerge from -- the creative effort of the elan vital -- is the being 'of God', if it is not God himself (Stumpf 1971: 402).

Critical Appraisal

The metaphysics of Bergson may be broader than what has been enunciated in this essay; nonetheless, the central theme has been examined successfully. Some suspicion stares us in the face regarding Bergson metaphysics inasmuch as it is anchored on duration. Bergson's idea of reality is bound up with his notion of duration, and the theory of duration is itself bound up with his theory of memory. Inasmuch as his theory of memory is defective, the whole idea of reality as duration, continuous, indivisible flow, will be inadequate. Bertrand Russell lucidly describes this matter in the following terms. According to Bergson's theory of memory, things remembered survive in the memory and thus interpenetrate present things: past and present are not mutually external, but mingled in the unity of consciousness. Action, he says is what constitute being, but mathematical time is a mere passive receptacle, which does nothing and therefore is nothing (Bergson 1907: 41). The past he says, is that which acts no longer, and the present is that which is action (Bergson 1911: 74). But in this statement, as indeed throughout his account of duration, Bergson is unconsciously assuming the ordinary mathematical time; without this, his statements lose their essence, that is, have no meaning. What is meant by saying 'the past is essentially that which acts no longer, except that the past is that of which the action is past? For Russell, the words 'no longer' are words expressible of the past to a person who did not have the ordinary notion of the past as something outside the present; these words would have no meaning (Russell 1912: 321-334). In this wise, Bergson's definition is circular. What he says in effect is that the past is that of which action is past. The same applies to his definition of the present as that which is acting.

All this makes it clear that when Bergson speaks of the past, he does not mean the past, but our present memory of the past. The past when it existed was just as active as the present now: if Bergson's account were correct, the present moment ought to be the only one in the whole history of the world containing any activity (Russell 1912: 321-334). Thus, the tenet that the past infiltrates, (that is, flow into) the present through and through is inadequate.

Apart from the foregoing difficulty, we need to ask a crucial question regarding intuition. How is intuition to be exercised as the method of philosophy? In what practical way can we literally enter into the object in order not to transform its nature or falsify it? How can we practically dispense with reason/ analysis in the bid to get at the nature of reality? We should have it in our mind that the reality we want to describe is itself transcendent to us. It is beyond and larger than our own self. Thus, how is it logically and practically possible to do a sympathizing with the object?

In a very close connection, given that the reality is not just us; we are a tiny part of the whole reality of the universe, just like any other physical or non-physical being, how sufficient is it to infer from one's conscious awareness of his own self to the general conclusion that reality is thereby duration and continuous? Bergson' construction of the nature of reality from the cognition of the self is problematic.

Finally, question of a more theoretical nature can be raised about Bergson's thought. How is it that Bergson posited that conceptual discourse is intrinsically distorting to reality and inadequate and could still use conceptual discourse to express this idea? Also, Bergson has said that reality is inexpressible in analysis. Yet Bergson did not stop at the recommendation of intuition so that the reader can go and exercise intuition and thereby grasp the nature of reality by himself at once. Rather, he went ahead to describe the nature of this reality as if he wanted the reader to understand him and believe his description with uttermost credulity. I do not think that the intensity of this problem can be overlooked. What we cannot end this essay without noting is that it appears Bergson's thought, at the fundamental level, because of his sole emphasis on intuition alone, is the extremist version of Kantian constructivism and relativism. Without any pretension, it verges on untruth to say that Bergsonian intuitionism can provide a metaphysical basis for objective knowledge of the world.


This paper has examined the metaphysics of Henri Bergson. For Bergson, we must opt for intuition since is it capable of giving us the true awareness of the absolute. Reality cannot be grasped in conceptual analysis for it distorts the reality itself. Analytic science treats of nature as static and disjointed, whereas true metaphysics (that is one that deploys intuition) treats of nature as dynamic, living unity. Science is inadequate because its use of analytic reasoning exaggerates further the disjointed and static conception of things. In all, reality is duration, and this fact can be understood when we look within our own 'self'. The way of knowing the true self is intuition, and the self is a continuous change in temporal unity.

The explanation, therefore, for how inert matter can overcome static status and evolve, the very question that spurred Bergson, is the postulation of an immaterial force-elan vital, which he described as the essential interior element of all living beings and is the creative power that moves in unbroken continuity through all things. This approach to the problem of evolution and self-organization in nature is of a particular attraction. It would appear that the idea of a principle of ordered growth is preferable to a theory of spontaneous development, for the latter defies the obvious unity and regularity that characterize our natural world. Spontaneity will only allow for a situation in which we should always expect any, I mean any sort of arbitrary growth, events, and effects in the world. The attraction of this explanation through elan vital can be seen if we move back historically to Aristotle's entelechy, and forward again to how Prof. Hans Driesch employed the same notion of entelechy in his biological vitalism.

Again, Bergson's thought suggests an inclination toward unity as an ideal. To such extent that this is true, comprehending reality as a unity rather than dividing it up by analyzing it to parts and segregating the parts in respect of time, place, desire and research motives also becomes an imperative. This in fact, presents a simpler, economical method of grasping reality self and essence. It is also epistemologically safe (from errors) that analysis may bring about, since the mind simply embraces the reality as a whole single kernel without nuts needing cracking, but kernels that are essentially part and parcel of the kernel and are available in an instant with the kernel itself at a one-go intuition. I desire such an epistemological situation. Anyone should desire it, even more for the fact that moral norms can be comprehended with unity as such. However, given the issues raised in the previous section, we are left yet with a doubt as to whether reality is organized basically into duration (unity), and if it is, whether our perception of the continuity in our consciousness tells anything about the exact nature of reality, and yet, whether the distinction between analysis and intuition, as well as the glorification of intuition, is anything useful. It would seem that realty is not organized into this intuitional unity but only available in bits and parts, and if it is, it does not seem that intuition, or anything different from successful analysis can comprehend this unity.


Bergson, Henry. 1903. An Introduction to Metaphysics. Translated by Hulme, T.E. New York:

Bergson, Henry. 1907. Creative Evolution. Translated by Mitchell, A. New York: Henry Holt.

Bergson, Henry 1911. Matter and Memory. London: Swan Sonnenschein.

Jones, T.W and Fogelin, R. J. 1952. A History of Western Philosophy: The Twentieth Century To Quine and Derrida. Florida: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Russell, Bertrand. 1912. 'The Philosophy of Bergson' in The Monist, Vol. 22. 1912. Retrieved on 01/02/2013 from: http:---

Stumpf, S.E.: Philosophy: History and Problems (USA: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1971).

(c) Ayodeji W. Adesoye 2015




In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera presents a complex theme of sexuality as it relates to his two primary characters, Tomas and Tereza. Although one could make a reasonable attempt in analyzing these characters in terms of human sexuality, it is submitted that the deeper undertones of Kundera's text can only be understood from a philosophical approach that views the sexuality of Kundera's characters as a metaphor of Friedrich Nietzsche's existentialism. That is to say, since Kundera's characters are largely embedded in the myth of Eternal Return, one cannot plausibly analyze the sexuality of his characters based upon human behavioral models, since by the very nature of Nietzsche's philosophy all life is incoherent and ambiguous -- and should not be subjected to traditional philosophical or psychological analysis (Kundera 31; Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 'Of Reading and Writing,' Nietzsche).

At the very outset, Kundera questions the meaning of Nietzsche's idea of Eternal Return. Kundera states that if the idea of Eternal Return is correct, and every second of our lives recurs indefinitely, then we humans must necessarily bear an immense responsibility for every action we take (Kundera 5). If the idea of Eternal Return is true, then as Nietzsche states, it is indeed the heaviest of all burdens (Kundera 5). But Kundera also sees that there is a pervasive ambiguity in the theory of Eternal Return. That is, if Eternal Return is the heaviest of all burdens, then it should follow that our lives can transcend the heaviness of perpetual recurrence by maintaining a 'splendid lightness' (Kundera 5). However, Kundera realizes that the distinction between 'lightness' (being positive) and 'weight' (being a negative burden), may not be as simplistic as the philosopher Parmenides imagined, and that Nietzsche's idea of Eternal Return is much more ambiguous (Kundera 6). Kundera's theme of sexuality in The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a paradigm of Nietzsche's theory of Eternal Return. Contrary to Parmenides' view of analyzing human behavior in terms of lightness and heaviness, Kundera's characters do not fit into neatly definitive categories, but rather are devoid of purpose or finality -- and can only be interpreted from the Nietzschean text of styled ambiguity (Kundera 6; Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 'Of Reading and Writing,' Nietzsche).

Before examining the sexuality of Kundera's characters as they relate to Nietzsche's existentialism, a further discussion of Nietzsche's myth of the Eternal Return and Kundera's theory of the lightness of being is warranted. In his essay, 'Kundera, Nietzsche, and Politics: On the Questions of Eternal Return and Responsibility,' Erik Parens compares the Eternal Return with Kundera's philosophy of the 'lightness of being.' Parens begins his discussion by contrasting these philosophical theories in the context of the French Revolution: 'If the French Revolution were to recur eternally, we would be less proud and more horrified by that definitive European event. Not believing in the myth of Eternal Return is thus enormously useful: it helps us forget' (Parens 286). But even though there are distinct advantages of not believing in the idea of Eternal Return, there is also a danger in a belief system that adheres to Kundera's theory of the lightness of being:

     Not so long ago, I caught myself experiencing a most
     incredible sensation. Leafing through a book on Hitler, I
     was touched by some of the portraits: they reminded me of
     my childhood. I grew up during the war; several members of
     my family perished in Hitler's concentration camps; but
     what were their deaths compared with the memories of a lost
     period in my life, a period that would never return?
     (Kundera 4)

In other words, if nothing will return, then everything is cynically permitted in advance (Kundera 4). In a world without eternal recurrence, there is no moral responsibility because no one can find fault where everything is in transit. As Parens puts it:

     If all is flux, and if the attribution of praise and blame
     requires a stable subject, then the time for attribution of
     praise and blame has passed; perhaps it is not an
     exaggeration to say that the time for politics as it has
     been understood is passed. In a world without eternal
     recurrence, life is unbearably light. (Parens 287)

In his first section, 'Lightness and Weight,' Kundera introduces his main characters, Tomas and Tereza. Tomas is initially portrayed as living a light-hearted bachelor existence. After a divorce and alienating himself from his entire family, Tomas begins a life of womanizing and pursuing brief sexual encounters. In order to perfect his light-hearted affairs, and protect his independence, Tomas devises a kind of contractual relationship with his mistresses. That is, the parties mutually understood that their relationship would be purely physical and could only last a maximum of three encounters. Furthermore, the parties to this agreement would understand that there would be absolutely no engagement of emotions or compassion during their brief encounters (Kundera 12-13). However, Kundera is careful not to portray Tomas as being driven by an uncontrollable sexual appetite, or in treating women as sexual objects (Kundera 208). Indeed, from the very beginning Tomas's existentialism and his sense of loathing for human love are divulged: After having a sexual encounter with one of his mistresses, Tomas is overcome by a desire to separate himself from his lover because her physical body has become distasteful to him (Kundera 14). Thus, Tomas is torn between a desire to copulate with any woman with unusual features, and then to immediately expel her 'alien body' from his presence after the sexual encounter. With direct parallels to the doctrine of existentialism, Tomas's constantly recurring sexual escapades brings with it a sense of dread that the entire nature of sexual relationships and the exchange of human bodies are, in fact, disgusting and distasteful (Kundera 14). However, even though Tomas experiences a sense of dread in his brief sexual encounters, it is clear that this character is not remorseful about his affairs because he is a metaphor for Kundera's lightness of being: Since all life is transitory, and there is no eternal recurrence for Tomas, there is likewise no moral responsibility for his actions (Parens 288).

The introduction of Tereza into Tomas's world is typified by Tereza's arrival with a heavy suitcase. On the surface, it appears that Tereza's suitcase is a metaphor for the weight and heaviness that Tereza brings with her. The burden of the suitcase is clearly Tereza's desire to possess Tomas with her monogamous love. While Tomas feels a loathing in sleeping over with his sex partners, Tereza felt that the sexual encounter was only a prelude to the more significant act of sleeping together (Kundera 15). In fact, Tereza was somewhat paranoid by her compulsion to sleep together with her lover: she would literally hold on to Tomas's hands or feet to show her sense of permanency to their relationship (Kundera 14).

Tomas's relationship with Tereza appears to be a conflict between lightness and heaviness that Kundera identifies at the outset of his text. Tomas is drawn by the lightness of the sexual encounter, and desires that his partners engage in the same light eroticism. When Tereza comes into his life with her heavy suitcase and her desire to hold onto Tomas during their sleep, Tomas sees that his erotic friendships are evaporating. At one point, Tomas is incapable of further sexual exploits without first becoming drunk (Kundera 21). He must become intoxicated in an effort to rid Tereza's image during his infidelities. On the other hand, Tereza wants a much weightier brand of love. She wants Tomas to devote himself to her alone. Tereza's possessiveness of Tomas borders on paranoia: 'Tereza saw herself threatened by women, all women. All women were potential mistresses for Tomas, and she feared them all' (Kundera 18). In this sense, Tereza's fear of Tomas's mistresses typifies her compassion for Tomas that burdens their relationship: Tereza wants to consume Tomas with her compassion, which cannot be shared with his other mistresses.

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera portrays the 'heavy' Tereza and the 'light' Tomas as characters who are enticed and drawn by their polar opposites. By being drawn to the other extreme, we can see that both characters display the ambiguity that is part of life in the Eternal Return. The ambiguity displayed here is simply that neither Tomas nor Tereza can easily be fit into categories of 'lightness' (Tomas's recurrent sexual encounters) or of 'heaviness' (Tereza's desire for a single relationship). In Tomas's case, after having lived seven years bound to Tereza's weighty idealism, Tomas begins to experience a tremendous feeling of compassion toward Tereza (Kundera 31). Based upon his new feeling of 'compassion' towards Tereza, Tomas finds that his life is unbearable apart from Tereza -- who has taken up residence in Prague (Kundera 33). After Tereza's departure, Tomas begins to experience an affinity with the music of Beethoven. Similar to Beethoven's 'difficult resolution,' Tomas sees the extrinsic value in performing a sacrificial act of returning to his occupied country in order to be with Tereza (Kundera 33-34). Tomas believes that his life will be significant and meaningful by sacrificing his recurrent sexual encounters. Nevertheless, Tomas's own philosophical beliefs tell him that all life is vague, ambiguous and full of chaos; thus, any path we may 'choose' will never be considered significant (Kundera 33-34). Likewise, in the myth of Eternal Return, everything is incoherent simply because the recurrent circle is itself comprised of ambiguity and disorder (Kundera 31). In Tomas's particular case, he finds that life is unsatisfyingly 'light' based on his recurrent sexual adventures. But he also discovers that by leaving this lifestyle to be with Tereza -- and experiencing her heavy 'compassion' -- that the other extreme is equally unsatisfying. Thus, Tomas is caught in a recurrent cycle that is devoid of meaning or symmetry: he can find no value in the light or the heavy part of the circle.

Tereza's view of sexuality is tempered by her childhood memories of her mother. Tereza's mother viewed the human body with disdain and banality: 'Tereza can't reconcile herself to the idea that the human body pisses and farts' (Kundera 45). Tereza wanted to keep her femininity hidden and modest; her mother sought to expose it. At times when she was engaged in love-making, Tereza would scream out loud. As Kundera noted, her screaming was not an expression of sensuality, but rather an expression of her naive idealism of her love (Kundera 54). In order to reconcile Tomas's infidelities, Tereza devised a scheme that she hoped would maintain her idealism of sexuality with Tomas's recurrent eroticism: She would allow Tomas to bring his mistresses along to view their sexual encounter. Tomas's mistresses would then stimulate his attraction to Tereza, and ultimately cause the two of them to be permanently merged into a hermaphrodite (Kundera 62). In this context, Tereza's erotic scheme could be viewed as a compromise to Tomas's lightness. That is, one could interpret Tereza's scheme as a concession to the ambiguity that pervades the Eternal Return: Tereza is unable to maintain her weighty idealism when all life is wrought with disorder and incoherence.

Tereza's infrequent sexual encounters outside her relationship to Tomas is also revealing as to her attitude toward purely sensual relationships. As an adoption of her mother's contempt of the human body, Tereza generally finds the body itself a disgusting creation. She seeks to escape from her mother's conception that the body is, in essence, a mechanism of 'farting and pissing' (Kundera 45). However, Tereza finds that she cannot escape this human drudgery: Her encounter with the tall engineer is the paradigm of the recurrent disgust. While she is initially attracted to the engineer's handsome physique, after he lures her onto his bed, Tereza's immense disgust is exposed and she proceeds to spit in the engineer's face immediately after intercourse. In a further display of disgust and remorse, Tereza then empties her bowels -- associating sex with her mother and with base bodily functions (Kundera 155-56). As was the case with Tomas, Tereza's view of sexual relations can be seen as a metaphor of Nietzsche's existentialism -- both characters are held in a recurrent cycle that brings with it a loathing of human existence.

Regarding Tereza's idealistic concept of her relationship with Tomas, Erik Parens compares her conception to one of Homer's heroes when she tries 'to see herself through her body' (Parens 289; qtd. in The Unbearable Lightness of Being 41). By looking at herself before the mirror, Tereza is able to conclude that her soul has a distinctive meaning, and is not simply reducible to her body (Parens 289). As being the paradigm of eternal recurrence, Tereza is the antithesis of the idea that 'human beings are soulless bodies in motion' (Parens 290). In particular, Tereza makes a concerted effort to maintain a hopeful perspective that where everything does recur, every moment is important and everything does matter (Parens 290). However, as Tereza learns from her relationship with Tomas, there is a constant ambiguity and dread associated with eternal recurrence: the suffering she is subjected to in her relationship with Tomas will be recurrent and eternal, and her choice to bear the burden of this affair will never be mitigated, and will never have a 'good' ending -- thus, the dread of the Eternal Return (Parens 287).

One could view Tomas's pursuit of erotic engagements as his own attempt of breaking through the myth of Eternal Return. For Tomas, his pursuit of eroticism was not based upon an idea that women were to be viewed as sex objects (Kundera 208). Rather, Tomas saw his pursuit of eroticism as a method of taking possession of and conquering that very small part of a woman that could only be exposed during sex (Kundera 200). Kundera explains this desire as one of appropriating the one-millionth part of a woman dissimilar to others of her sex (Kundera 200). In pursuit of such specialized knowledge, 'epic womanizers' such as Tomas, 'turn away from conventional feminine beauty, of which they quickly tire, and inevitably end up curiosity collectors' (Kundera 201). During one of his exploits, Tomas presumably found this one-millionth part in the giraffe-woman. Tomas believed that during his sexual encounter with the giraffe-woman he appropriated her unique clumsiness during intercourse; and her act of raising her legs during the act was paramount to 'a soldier surrendering to a pointed gun' (Kundera 206). For Tomas, his sexual encounter with the giraffe-woman gave him the joy of taking possession of another piece of the world and somehow breaking through the monotony and burden of life (Kundera 207).

The paradox and the ambiguity of lightness and heaviness that Kundera poses in the beginning of The Unbearable Lightness of Being may have been reconciled in the end. As they enter their bedroom for the final night of love-making, Tereza observes two beds pushed together (Kundera 314). This observation connotes Tereza's idealism of love -- drawing Tomas into the magic stream, with closed eyes, and merging with him (Kundera 209). However, Tomas does not see the two beds pushed together; he observes the large nocturnal butterfly that circles the room (Kundera 314). For Tomas, this radiant butterfly represents the final resting place for his poetic memory. Somehow, by their ambiguous compromise, Tereza and Tomas have found happiness and entered the room of Eternal Return.

Works cited

Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 'Of Reading and Writing.' Thus Spoke Zarathustra. New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 1969. 67-69. Print.

Parens, Erik. 'Kundera, Nietzsche, and Politics: On the Questions of Eternal Return and Responsibility.' Philosophy Today 37.3 (1993): 285-297. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 15 Apr. 2010.

(c) John Hansen 2015


John Hansen received a BA in English from the University of Iowa and MA in English Literature from Oklahoma State University. His work has appeared in The Summerset Review, The Pluralist, Philological Review, The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies, PopMatters, and Literary Yard'. He is English Faculty at Mohave Community College in Arizona.




Its intransigence may make the ongoing debate about free will and moral responsibility, as John Searle famously claimed, a 'scandal' in contemporary philosophy, but this has also ensured that it remains significant, interesting, and as relevant as ever to the issue of culpability in our criminal justice system. Western moral psychology and, indeed, our conception of human nature itself, are underwritten by ideas about autonomy, agency, intention and volition, which (at least to some extent) presuppose freedom of the will. Our social-political-cultural institutions are also consequently predicated upon the assumption that free will grounds the very possibility of meaningful thought, action, and ethics in human affairs. As one such institution, the criminal justice system is therefore predicated upon the assumption that free will is essential to both personhood and legal responsibility.

Despite its significance, this assumption has been articulated in a relatively vague and sporadic way in contemporary jurisprudence, but nonetheless remains a foundational premise that makes the concept of retribution within the criminal justice system sensible and fair. A robust and vital presumption of free will is essential to the notion that we are morally and legally responsible human agents deserving of praise, blame, reward, and punishment. The United States Supreme Court has stated that 'belief in freedom of the human will and consequent ability and duty of the normal individual to choose between good and evil is... universal and persistent in mature systems of law'[1], and it would certainly be difficult to countenance the role that the criminal justice system has traditionally played in western culture -- at least since the Enlightenment -- without this presumption.

Of course, the extent to which this presumption may or may not be tenable is integrally connected to the larger debate regarding the nature of free will and responsibility. This paper examines how various Compatibilist perspectives on free will generally, and on the Consequence Argument specifically, fare in current debates concerning the way criminal responsibility is, and should be, conceived within the justice system. At issue is whether Compatibilism is successful in reconciling its deterministic premises with its retributive conclusions about the viability of moral and legal responsibility.

I argue that, despite the overwhelming current popularity of compatibilism among contemporary philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists and jurists, it fails to accomplish this task and does not, in any of its incarnations, provide a satisfactory vindication of the kind of free will or legal responsibility required by the contemporary criminal justice system. In particular, many Compatibilist assumptions about naturalism and the causal closure of the physical world, the nature of mind/ consciousness, weaknesses in its responses to the Consequence Argument because of these assumptions, and its subsequent conclusions about the role of free will and criminal responsibility, are ultimately unsatisfactory if retributive justice (administering punishments, privileges, or rewards that are earned or deserved by autonomous and morally responsible agents) is a basic goal of the criminal justice system. Moreover, I also suggest that deterministic and physicalist assumptions which underwrite the compatibilist position involve conceptions of personhood that may render free will hopelessly problematic and thus defeat its own project: Resulting in views like mind-brain identity, epiphenomenalism, the situational self, and extended cognition, which tend to delegitimize, decenter, or deconstruct the very kind of self-identity and personal agency that makes the attribution of autonomy or individual volition possible for the purpose of determining criminal responsibility.

I conclude by suggesting that recognizing Compatibilism's failure in this respect may refocus attention on Compatibilism's less popular competitors in the free will debate: Hard Determinism and Libertarianism. Since Hard Determinism's metaphysical assumptions cannot be reconciled with moral or legal responsibility, and it therefore appears to undermine the ethical viability of retributive justice (a conclusion that would be unpalatable to most jurists, criminal justice professionals, and the public at large), perhaps the time has come to reconsider Libertarianism as a rationale for acknowledging and preserving the idea of free will and the legitimacy of retributive justice in criminal law.

Compatibilism and the Consequence Argument

Although definitions of free will are the subject of endless ongoing debate in the philosophical community, most philosophers, legal scholars and jurists concur that the popular common-sense 'working' conception of free will assumed by social institutions generally and the criminal justice system specifically, is the more-or-less 'folk-psychological' one. This conception of free will prescribes an agent's (person) being the source or originator of his/ her own actions, having control over these thoughts/ actions, and having the ability to think/ act otherwise. Although there are philosophical traditions that qualify, critique, or reject one or more of these criteria[2], the general social consensus is that free will encompasses them in some sense, and the criminal justice system has traditionally subscribed to the folk-psychological view of free will. Its notion of retribution also requires that free agents meet these criteria.

While there is also lively debate regarding precise definitions of the traditional categories: Determinist, Libertarian, and Compatibilist, for this paper's purposes these terms will be assumed to denote the general scope of their usual usage. Libertarianism (especially in its agent-casual form) claims that agents (persons) have the kind of free will that meets the folk-psychological criteria and, hence, can be held morally and legally responsible for their thoughts and actions. Hard Determinism claims that, because agents are completely subject to determining forces (physical laws, mechanistic causation, divine will, etc) they do not have the kind of free will that meets the folk-psychological criteria and are therefore not morally/ legally responsible. Compatibilism claims that although thoughts/ actions are determined in the way understood by Hard Determinists, agents nonetheless possess free will in a substantial (although not contra-causal Libertarian) sense, and can thus be considered morally/ legally responsible for thoughts and actions, despite these being determined. Of these, Compatibilism is probably the consensus view of free will among contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and legal scholars thinking about the implications of free will for criminal responsibility in a retributive justice system.

The traditional 'Consequence Argument' (appearing, in various incarnations, from Diodorus Cronus to Peter Van Inwagen[3]) outlines the basic challenge to compatibilism on this issue. It states that if all events are caused of necessity by prior events, and our thoughts and actions are events, then our thoughts and actions are caused necessarily by prior events which are therefore ultimately outside of our volition, beyond our control, and for which there are no alternate possibilities. We are therefore not responsible for our thoughts and actions. Stated in a more naturalistic context: If all events, including our thoughts and actions, are aspects of the physical universe, and the physical universe is casually closed, then our thoughts and actions must be determined mechanistically by the physical laws and processes of this universe, rather than by any contra-causal agent-centered 'mental' event (Quantum randomness does not help either, as random events are, obviously, not free in the folk-psychological sense). We are, thus, not responsible for our thoughts and actions in the folk-psychological sense and should not be held morally or criminally liable for them in a retributive justice system. therefore the dilemma for compatibilism is how to reconcile its deterministic view of the human condition with its simultaneous endorsement of free will, responsibility and retributive justice -- that the Consequence Argument contends is logically impossible.

Legal Compatibilism's Response to the Determinist Challenge Via the Consequence Argument

Compatibilist responses to the Consequence Argument take many forms, but generally turn on the notion that, while human agents are not free in the Libertarian folk-psychological sense, they are nonetheless free in a more limited but quite legitimate sense. By relocating freedom in such dynamics as rationality, volition, and deliberation (rather than in an undetermined self-caused agent) they argue, our thoughts and actions can still be considered free despite being ultimately determined. Even if choices are ultimately determined, they are 'free' if they are the result of uncoerced and rational deliberation, and this kind of freedom, in Dennett's famous words, is 'The only kind of free will worth wanting'[4]. For legal Compatibilists, this means that criminal responsibility is vindicated despite deterministic constraints on free will.[5]

Mens Rea, or the 'guilty mind' requirement necessary to establish culpability in Anglo-American criminal law generally requires that the intentional commission of an Actus Reus, or criminal act, be committed in such a way that the agent 'purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently' chooses his/ her course of action.[6] Similarly, the Voluntary Act requirement involved in any criminal act demands that this act or omission be willed or intended, rather than involuntary or unconsciously done.[7] However these requirements do not entail Libertarian or folk-psychological kinds of freedom, according to legal Compatibilists. A legitimately intentional criminal act may still be the result of a deliberate (and hence, free) chain of thoughts, impulses, and desires which are nonetheless determined and beyond the immediate control of the perpetrator. Even if the ultimate causes of criminal acts are beyond the perpetrator's control, they are free choices for which he/ she is responsible and warrant retribution if they are the result of that perpetrator's rational deliberation and voluntary action.

Thus, legal Compatibilists claim, a host of contemporary deterministic challenges to criminal culpability are refuted a priori. Things like unconscious psychological drives, genetic predispositions, situational environmental influences, and neural correlates of conscious thought all may determine how we think and act, but these do not preclude the kind of ability to think and act that makes us criminally responsible. Stephen Morse and Nita Farahany, for instance, have recently argued that despite impressive advances in neural imaging and brain science, neuroscience is neither sophisticated enough to establish the reduction of mind (and hence, free will) to brain chemistry, nor comprehensive enough to deterministically explain criminal intent and voluntary action solely in terms of brain-function. Though they are both metaphysical materialists and determinists, they nonetheless acknowledge that criminal responsibility involves the complex dynamics of 'whole people' rather than simple brain states and that human thoughts and actions, though ultimately physically determined, are the result of an elaborate, multi-textured, and intricately influenced process of rational deliberation that is sufficient to make them intentional and voluntary and, hence, free.[8] Moreover, because the criminal justice system restricts its purview to this narrow conception of freedom, it need never address the issue of ultimate responsibility and free will raised by the Consequence Argument. In actual practice, no discussion or definition of free will in these terms even figures into determinations of criminal responsibility.[9]

Compatibilism's failure to Meet the Determinist Challenge Via the Consequence Argument

Legal Compatibilism, however, fails to address substantial challenges to criminal responsibility posed by the Consequence Argument for several reasons. First, the claim made by Morse and others that free will is somehow irrelevant to or beyond the purview of the criminal justice system fails to address the tacit reality of what we want the justice system to accomplish. Although all of the more intricate philosophical questions regarding free will may not be addressed in the practical discourse of criminal law, the nature and scope of free will is still a vitally important concern in criminal justice policy and practice. Its institutions operate and dispense justice on the basis of assumptions about folk-psychological free will, and these are integral to the theory of retribution in contemporary criminal justice, whether or not it is articulated this way specifically.

Moreover, almost all contemporary legal compatibilists are determinists of the naturalistic or physicalist variety, who disavow any non-physical or super-natural dimension of causality, agency, or mind, and acknowledge only material entities, causes, and laws as defined by the current physical sciences. They are therefore, along with the physical sciences, committed to 'efficient' (mechanistic) causation explicable in physical terms, non-teleological (non-purposeful) explanations for events, and the causal closure of the physical world -- all of which necessitate that human thoughts/ actions are part of a determined process that began with the origin of the physical universe, cannot be contra-causally altered by any intervening non-physical agent, and could not have occurred in any way other than that which this relentless and incorrigible process dictates. Human minds, thoughts, and actions then, are entirely physical, non-teleological, and causally closed events, which are entirely determined by this process.

However, if thoughts and actions are determined in this way (as compatibilists claim), it seems untenable to also claim that, in any meaningful sense, human agents are the source of thoughts/actions (in the sense of their desires, decisions, etc, originating in the immediacy of their own conscious deliberation), they control what they think or do (in the sense of their being autonomous conscious authors of their choices), or they could have done otherwise (in the sense that they have an option to intervene contra-causally in the physical chain of events that results in the course of their thoughts and acts). Since they lack these capacities, it seems untenable to claim that they have free will and, hence, personal responsibility for what they think/ do as these concepts are commonly understood in the folk psychological sense. And since they lack free will and personal responsibility as these are commonly understood in our culture, they therefore lack the kind of autonomous agency required by the Voluntary Act principle, Mens Rea, etc, and should -- as per the Consequence Argument -- not be held responsible for criminal behavior.

Most Compatibilists, however, are physicalists of various non-reductive varieties, and respond that although mental events and cognitive activity are indeed physical, they are nonetheless more subtle and complex than other, simpler, physical processes. Human agents performing mental functions are, therefore, more free in making their choices than are simple brains, artificial intelligence, etc. Daniel Dennett, for instance, locates free will in the distinctively complex 'competencies' of human neurological processes, which involve sophisticated levels of self-surveillance[10], and John Searle finds warrant for free will in a substantively enhanced status for mental processes which, though still physical, are qualitatively different and more elaborate than their other physical correlates.[11] Proponents of 'extended cognition', like Shaun Gallagher, also see a viable capacity for free will in the 'relational' person who, rather than being reducible to simple brain function, is a complex and nuanced 'physical system' comprised of his/ her entire surrounding environment.[12]

Following this logic, Compatibilists like Morse and Farahany justify legal attributions of free will and responsibility on the basis of the intricacy and multi-leveled hierarchy of human neuro-biology, cognition, and relationships. Our ultimate dispositions and deliberations may be physically based and mechanistically determined, they claim, but our specific choices in immediate situations have a greater degree of variation, unpredictability, and possible options than do more rudimentary physical systems. This kind of enhanced complexity makes human choices free -- and hence morally and legally accountable -- in a sense that other physical processes are not.[13]

The problem with this response is that it pushes the Consequence Argument dilemma back one step without resolving it. No matter how intricate or complex a naturalistic process may be, it remains a completely physical, non-teleological, causally closed -- in sum, entirely determined -- process that does not permit free will in the folk psychological sense required for legal and moral responsibility. Thus, no matter how complex a physical human organism or system may be, it is still a mechanistic, causally-closed and efficiently caused process driven ultimately by the laws of physics and prior physical events beyond that human organism's immediate control. These dynamics make impossible the kind of self-authorship, autonomous control, and ability to do otherwise that are required by folk-psychology and the Consequence Argument -- and hence, the criminal justice system -- for free will and responsibility. Thermostats, I-phones, and super-computers, for instance, are entities that may possess relatively complex levels of cognitive sophistication (in some ways, more sophistication than human cognition) but none of them ever rises to a level of complexity that would justify our attributing free will and legal responsibility to their cognitive processes or actions. This is because mechanistic physical phenomena -- including human thoughts and actions in a causally closed purely physical universe -- cannot possess free will in a way that warrants an attribution of moral or legal responsibility sufficient to avoid the implications of the Consequence Argument, no matter how elaborate their functioning may be.

In fact, Compatibilist attempts to locate freedom in an agent's cognitive complexity tends to undermine the concept of legally responsible agency itself. Jaegwon Kim has pointed out that non-reductive physicalist philosophies of mind, by adding extra-physical sounding 'mental' capacities (over-and-above unconscious brain function) to brain-based consciousness in order to explain free will, run the risk of either devolving into a kind of epiphenomenalism (the claim that non-physical states of consciousness exist, but have no capacity to influence human activity) which cannot be reconciled with free will, or evolving into a kind of incoherent substance dualism (the claim that two kinds of elements exist -- physical and mental) which cannot be reconciled with their physicalism.[14] Compatibilists like Morse and Farahany face precisely this problem in positing special kinds of conscious or mental states that can be 'free' (and hence, legally responsible) in a sense that other biologically-based physical states are not. Both reject epiphenomenalism but then posit mental states that are somehow both physical (mechanistically neurologically determined) but substantively different from everything else that is physical (they are consciously motivated in a non-mechanistic extra-physical sounding sense), in order to retain the status of being free in a morally/ legally privileged way. 'The plausible theory of mind that might support such explanations is thoroughly material but non-reductive and non-dualistic', Morse writes, 'It hypothesizes that all mental and behavioral activity is a causal product of lawful physical events in the brain... that they are caused by lower level biological states in the brain... but not at the level of neurons, and that mental states are causally efficacious'. Along these same lines, Farahany claims that conscious intention is somehow divided between more-determined 'freedom of choice' and less-determined 'freedom of action', both of which are essentially brain-based but are also somehow fundamentally different in their causal efficacy. The only apparent difference, however, is in their relative levels of neurological complexity, which is assumed -- inexplicably -- to make a genuine difference in their relative levels of freedom.[15]

The problem with this mental foundation of free will, is that it must be either self-contradictory (simultaneously physical but also extra-physical in certain respects) or dualistic in a Cartesian way that Morse, Farahany, and almost all compatibilists deny. Similarly, theories of 'extended' or 'relational' cognition and consciousness (that our cognitive and 'mental' capacity extends to the tools and environment that we mentally interact with), like those proposed by Shaun Gallagher, Mason Cash, and others[16], offer important new insights into how dynamics like self-identity and agency might be re-conceptualized, but also raise new confusions about how free and responsible agency in the folk-psychological sense can remain coherent in a retributive criminal justice system that assigns culpability to autonomous individuals. While not obviating the possibility of individual responsibility, theories of extended cognition expand and decenter personal identity in ways that render assignations of freedom, blame and praise to individually responsible agents, increasingly problematic.

Libertarian Freedom as a Viable Alternative

The Compatibilist position therefore does not adequately respond to the Consequence Argument and hence does not present an account of free will necessary to establish the kind of moral/ criminal responsibility and retributive justice required by the criminal justice system. Its commitment to determinism, physicalism, and causal closure undermines its endorsement of decisions and acts that are authored by a responsible agent, under the agent's control, and that could have been otherwise -- at least in the folk psychological sense in which these are understood by our legal system. Hard Determinism obviously faces the same problems and, although some of its adherents suggest that determinism is compatible with either a straight-forward utilitarian standard of justice (that punishments /rewards should be conferred simply to produce behavioral results in the agent instead of giving the agent what he/she retributively 'deserves') or even preserving the myth of retribution in our society for purely utilitarian purposes[17] it fails, like compatibilism, to provide adequate warrant for praise, blame, reward, or punishment.

Of the three perspectives then, this leaves the prospect of a Libertarian vindication of free will, responsibility, and retribution available for consideration and, though such consideration is beyond the purview of this paper, it is worth noting that Libertarian free will is already largely assumed by folk psychology, the criminal justice system, and our cultural institutions generally. It also meets the challenge of the Consequence Argument by refuting determinism and acknowledging an autonomous contra-causal agent as the source of free will and responsibility.

Though popular in the larger culture, Libertarianism has been largely dismissed by current philosophers, neuroscientists, psychologists and jurists. Its contra-causal self-authoring agent --essential to legal responsibility -- has been rejected as a logically incoherent uncaused cause, as over-determining physical causation, as violating the principle of causal closure, and as an obsolete remnant of Cartesian dualism that is unsupported by empirical evidence.[18] However Libertarians can, and have, offered responses to these charges that are equally compelling -- claiming, for instance, that agent-causation is the only effective rationale for providing the kind of teleological reasons-oriented explanations (vs. mechanistically caused explanations) that common-sense demands for conscious human choices,[19] and that causal closure of the physical world has been neither logically or empirically established by science or philosophy.[20] Indeed, as many philosophers of science have pointed out, the very nature of 'the physical' is itself an ephemeral and malleable concept that has not been defined in a firm, non-circular way.[21] In addition, there is a growing body of empirical evidence from physics, psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, and philosophy (not to mention a long tradition of non-western philosophy and science largely -- and inexcusably -- ignored in the west) supporting the possibility of consciousness metaphysically distinct from the physical world and brain, but still causally efficacious in the physical world in ways that support the Libertarian concept of free will.[22]

While Libertarianism may face logical and empirical problems, it can be argued that these are no more precarious than those facing Compatibilism and Hard Determinism. Though this paper is not the forum in which to explore Libertarian arguments, it is sufficient now to note that the failure of Compatibilism and Hard Determinism to provide an adequate response to the Consequence Argument or an adequate vindication of free will, clears the way and provides an incentive to reexamine the prospect of adopting a more robust and well-defined Libertarian conception of free will for validating and supporting our common-sense intuitions about responsibility and retribution in the criminal justice system.


1. Morisette V U.S. 342 U.S 246, 250 (1988)

2. Frankfurt and successors, for instance, beginning with : 'Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility' Journal of Philosophy 66: 829-39 (1969), 'Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person' Journal of Philosophy 68: 5-20 (1971)

3. Van Inwagen, P. 'Free Will Remains a Mystery' Oxford Handbook of Free Will ed. Kane University Press (2002)

4. Dennet, D. Elbow Room. (Cambridge: MIT Press) 1984

5. Michael Moore and others have argued that basing responsibility on mental capacity rather than on causation is the only tenable way to preserve its integrity or utility in the legal system. Placing Blame: A General Theory of Criminal Law. (Oxford: University Press) 2010, Buchanan argues that neuroscience can support this standard via a 'functional test' of brain activity if the Mens Rea concept is interpreted liberally. Buchanan A. 'Commentary: Freedom and Function' Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 36:25-26 (2008)

6. In Marby's classic words: 'an attitude of mind in which the doer of an act averts to the desires that follow' it.

7. Model Penal Code Standards

8. Farahany, N. Neuroscience and the Law 4 Sta Tech Law Review (2004), Morse, S. 'The Non-Problem of Free will in Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology' Behavioral Sciences and the Law 3:11 (2007)

9. Morse Ibid.

10. Dennet, D. Ibid

11. Among other places, Searle, J. Freedom and Neurobiology. (Columbia: University Press) 2006.

12. Gallagher, S. 'Consciousness and Free Will' Danish year Book of Philosophy 39 7-16 (2004)

13. Morse, S. 'Criminal Responsibility and the Disappearing Person' 28 Cardozo Law Rev 2545 (2007)

14. Kim, J. 'Mental Causation' Oxford Handbook of Free Will. ed. Walter (University Press) 2009

15. Farhany, Morse, ibid

16. Cash M. 'Extended Cognition, Personal Responsibility and Relational Autonomy' Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (4) 645-671 (2010) Others, like Shaun Gallagher, 'Consciousness and Free Will' Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 39 7-16 (2004), also expand self-identity to a wide matrix of relationships, but ultimately restrict these to the physical.

17. For instance, Flanagan O. The Problem of the Soul. (New York: Basic Books) 2002, Pereboom D. 'Living Without Free Will' Oxford Handbook of Free Will (University Press) 2002, Smilanski. S 'Free Will Fundamental Dualism, and the Centrality of Illusion' Oxford Handbook of Free Will (2002), Wegner D. The Illusion of Conscious Will. (Cambridge: MIT Press) 2002

18. There are innumerable presentations and formulations of these kinds of arguments, of course. For example: see the preceding citation

19. For example: Lowe E, 'Dualism' Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Mind. ed.Walter (University Press) 2009, Miextner U. 'Materialism Does Not Save the Phenomena' The Waning of Materialism. ed. Koons (2010) Nida M. 'An Argument From Transtemporal Identity for Subject-Body Dualism' The Waning of Materialism, Swinburne R. The Evolution of the Soul. (Oxford: University Press) 1997

20. For example: Goertz S. Naturalism. (Cambridge:UK: Eerdsman Publishing) 2008, Hodgeson D. 'Quantum Physics Consciousness and Free Will' Oxford Hand Book of Free Will(2002), Robinson H. 'Idealism' Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Mind (2009)

21. For example: BonjourL. 'Against Materialism' The Waning of Materialism (2010), Montero B. 'What is the Physical?' Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Mind

22. For example, From Neuroscience and Cognitive science, Beauregard M. The Spiritual Brain. (New York: HarperCollins) 2007, Hoffman D. 'Conscious Realism and the Mind-Body Problem' Mind And Matter vol 6, 87-121 (2008), Penrose R. Shadows of the Mind. (Oxford: University Press) 1996, Schwartz J. The Mind and the Brain. (New York: HarperCollins) 2002, Radin D. Entangled Minds. LA: Paraview Books (2006), From physics, Bohm D. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. (New York: Routledge) 2002, Rosenblum B. Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness. (Oxford: University Press) 2007, Stapp H. Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer. Springer (2007), Wigner E. 'Remarks on the Mind-Body Question' (1950), From Philosophy: Chalmers D. 'Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness' Explaining Consciousness ed. Shear, (Cambridge MIT )2000, Shear J. 'The Hard Problem: Closing the Empirical Gap' Explaining Consciousness (2000), Velmans M. 'The Relation on Consciousness to the Material World' Explaining Consciousness (2000) For Historical cross-disciplinary perspectives: Skirbina D. Panpsychism in the West. (Cambridge:MIT) 2005

(c) Richard Grego 2015


© Geoffrey Klempner 2002–2020