“What Animals Can Teach Us about Free Will” with guest Helen Steward



For millennia, human beings have believed that we have free will-that we are agents who can choose our own paths. But what does this mean in the age of antidepressants and identity politics? Perhaps more intriguing, does this imply that people are unique, that we are the only animals that are undetermined? Our guest on this episode says “no,” asking not what it means to be a free person, but what it means to be a free animal. This conversation combines a classical philosophical debate with new insights in cognitive science to rethink what it means to choose an action.

Host Jack Russell Weinstein says, “Free will is the kind of topic that sounds so abstract that one wonders if it matters. A good conversation like the one Helen offers us shows quite the opposite, that the debate is not only relevant, but that it has a special urgency all of its own.”

Helen Steward is the Professor of Philosophy of Mind and Action at the University of Leeds in England. Her research interests lie mainly in the philosophy of action and free will, the philosophy of mind, and the metaphysical and ontological issues which bear on these areas. She is the author of The Ontology of Mind and A Metaphysics for Freedom.

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