Journal of Philosophy of Life

An international peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to the philosophy of life, death, and nature, supported by the Project of Philosophy and Contemporary Society, Advanced Research Center for Human Sciences, Waseda University


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Transcendence and Mediation
: From Tartaglia to the Free-Will Debate

Sho Yamaguchi

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.7, No.1 (July 2017):279-304




Taking inspiration from James Tartaglia’s Philosophy in a Meaningless Life, I suggest a way out of the present dialectical stalemate in analytic philosophy of free will and moral responsibility. The key concept employed in my proposal is transcendence, i.e., our remarkable ability to self-relativize by stepping back from the social framework understanding which determines our systems of value. Analytic philosophers who favor one of the standard, determinate and mutually exclusive positions in the free-will debate have marginalized this aspect of transcendence in human life. For if one conceives human life as essentially involving the movement of transcendence, then one can discern an element of self-deception in the analytic philosophers’ self-images of themselves as defenders of the one true theory, as cast within a fixed framework of language and thought. One of the central suggestions of this essay is that analytic philosophers – including myself – should abandon such a self-image, because when we philosophize, we are always already engaged in an endless effort of self-reflection, self-criticism and self-revision. I argue, in addition, that it is loyalty to the untenable self-image which forces the philosophical debate on free will and moral responsibility into a vicious deadlock. As such, my essay is an attempt to philosophically investigate the topic of free will without succumbing to the self-image of ‘Seeker of The Unique and Definitive Truth’.

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