Thursday, 1 January 2015

Tensed Time and Free Will. Raymond Tallis conducts Inner Circle Seminar 216 (28 June 2015)

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Raymond Tallis

Tensed Time and Free Will

Raymond Tallis
Inner Circle Seminar No. 216
introduced by
Anthony Stadlen
Sunday 28 June 2015
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Raymond Tallis gave the memorable Inner Circle Seminar No. 184 on 2 December 2012 in which he showed how biologism aspires to turn the ‘humanities’ into ‘animalities’. Today, he will continue to show the absurdity of reductionism. He will demonstrate the falsity of the purported use of neuroscience to disprove free will.

In the spirit of Samuel Johnson, Martin Heidegger and John Horton Conway, it may be asked why philosophers, psychotherapists or anybody at all should be trying to prove free will. Is not the onus on those who deny it to explain their reasons? However, those who are wavering, tempted by the seduction of neuroscientism dressed as neuroscience, perhaps sensing its wrongness but unsure how to resist, will surely gain heart from the clarity and rigour of Raymond Talliss elucidation.

He will present his argument in two parts during the first hour or so of the seminar. We shall then discuss it in depth and detail. 

Raymond Tallis summarises his argument as follows:

1. Determinism and Neurodeterminism: The Case Against Free Will
The traditional case for determinism is based on the assumption that humans are ultimately material objects – specifically their brains - wired into a causally closed universe. This metaphysical argument against free will has recently been supplemented by interpretations of experimental findings in neuroscience, notably those associated with Benjamin Libet and John Dylan-Hayes. Attempts to escape determinism and neurodeterminism by appeal to chaos theory, quantum indeterminacy, and the notion that humans break the laws of nature in virtue of being uncaused causes will be criticised.

2. Tensed Time and Human Freedom
The second part of the seminar will undermine the case for determinism first by critiquing the fundamental assumption that humans are their brains and human consciousness identical with neural activity. The discussion will begin with intentionality and its failure to fit into a world that seems to be causally closed. This will ground a critique of the notion of causation as an inherent property of the material world and will help us to understand how voluntary actions are possible in a world of material events (that include actions). The co-evolution of first-person being, selfhood, agency, and freedom will be examined. All of these will be connected with the temporal depth – made explicit in tensed time  that is unique to human consciousness. Freedom will be shown to be neither impossible nor an illusion.

Raymond TalliBM BCh MA FRCP LittD (Hon Causa) DLitt (Hon Causa) F Med Sci FRSA was Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and a consultant physician in Health Care of the Elderly in Salford until 2006. He also advised the government on health care of older people and in particular on the development of stroke services. He has published 200 research articles in the neurology of old age (epilepsy and stroke) and neurological rehabilitation, and original articles in NatureMedicineLancet and other leading journals. In 2000 he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He received the Dhole Eddlestone Prize; the Founders Medal of the British Geriatrics Society; the Lord Cohen Gold Medal for Research into Ageing. He is Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying.

He has published a novel, short stories, three volumes of poetry, and 23 books on the philosophy of mind, philosophical anthropology, literary theory, the nature of art, and cultural criticism. These offer a critique of current predominant intellectual trends and an alternative understanding of human consciousness, the nature of language and of what it is to be a human being. For this he has been awarded two honorary degrees: DLitt (Hon Causa) University of Hull, 1997; and LittD (Hon Causa) University of Manchester 2002. 
In 2008 he was appointed Honorary Visiting Professor in the Department of English at the University of Liverpool. He writes op-eds for The Times and has a column in Philosophy Now. He is a regular at the leading literary and science festivals. He is a frequent broadcaster, with recent appearances on Start the WeekNightwavesInside the Ethics Committee and The Moral Maze. Among his recent books are Aping Mankind. Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity (2011) and Reflections of a Metaphysical Flaneur and Other Essays (2013). 

In 2009, the Economist Intelligent Life Magazine listed him as one of the world’s 20 leading polymaths.

Venue:   Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ (
Cost:    Psychotherapy trainees £120, others £150, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
                   Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail:
For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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