The Emergence of Self

Under construction.  Do not copy, quote or cite.


Quotes from Hasker’s The Emergent Self :


But ancient physics, with the exception of the atomists, did on the whole tend to give some encouragement to those who sought from it an account of “the best” and of the reasons for things—most enduringly, in Aristotle’s doctrine of final causes.  And it was the expulsion of final causes from physics by Descartes and Galileo that marked what was perhaps the most decisive break between ancient and modern natural science.  A future revision of physics that would reverse this shift would be astonishing.  — Page 64.

In the meantime, what we have to consider is the: Can explanations that are mechanistic, in the sense described, do justice to human action and in particular to human rationality?  — Page 64.


Thus, one can argue against both Kim and Davidson—and in fact, against any physicalist view that maintains the causal closure of the physical domain—that “whether for not a given event has a mental description” (for instance, as the acceptance of a proposition which constitutes a good reason for some other proposition) “seems entirely irrlevant to that causal relations i9t enters into” (for instance, to what other beliefs a person comes to accept as a result).  To put it more plainly, On the assumption of the causal closure of the physical, no one ever accepts a belief because it is supported by good reasons.  To say that this constitutes a serious problem for physicalism seems an understatement.  –Page 68.

All of this merely restates, in the language of counterfactual conditionals, what should by now be obvious:  In a physicalist world, principles of sound reasoning have no relevance to determining what actually happens.  –Page 71.


For humans in this post-Darwin era, there is a tight link between evolution and rationality. . . If rationality is something we’ve got, evolution must have given it to us. — Page 75.

What this means is that, given the physicalist assumption, the occurrence and content of conscious mental states such as belief and desire are irrelevant to behavior and are not subject to selection pressures.  On this assumption, natural selection gives us no reason to assume that the experiential content of mental states corresponds in any way whatever to objective reality.  And since on the physicalist scenario Darwinist epistemology is the only available explanation for the reliability of our epistemic faculties, the conclusion to be drawn is that physicalism not only has not given any explanation for such reliability, but it is in principle unable to give any such explanation.  And that, it seems to me, is about as devastating an objection to physicalism as anyone could hope to find. — Page 79.





  1. William Hasker, The Emergent Self, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1999