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An Impossible Reality




Raymond Tallis


Agenda Publishing



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Raymond Tallis has been Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences for his research in clinical neuroscience. He retired from medicine in 2006 to become a full-time writer. His books have ranged across many subjects – from philosophical anthropology to literary and cultural criticism – but all are characterised by a fascination for the infinite complexity of human lives and the human condition. The Economist’s Intelligent L...




September 2021


The question of free will has preoccupied philosophers for millennia. In recent years the debate has been reinvigorated by the findings of neuroscience and, for some, the notion that we have free will has finally been laid to rest. Not so, says Raymond Tallis. In his quest to reconcile our practical belief in our own agency with our theoretical doubts, Tallis advances powerful and original arguments for the reality of freedom.

Tallis challenges the idea that the laws of nature wire us into a causally closed world that imprisons. He shows that our capacity to discover and exploit these laws is central to understanding the nature of voluntary action and to reconciling free will with our status as material beings.

Tallis brings his familiar erudition and insight to this most intriguing and important philosophical question, one that impacts most directly on our lives and touches on nearly every other philosophical problem – of consciousness, of time, of the nature of the natural world, and of our unique place in the cosmos. Tallis’s fascinating exploration takes us to the heart of what we are, and by understanding our freedom shows our extraordinary nature more clearly.


Overture: Intention and Intentionality
1. The Impossibility of Free Will
2. Bringing the Laws on Side
3. Unpicking Causation
4. Actions
5. The Human Agent
6. The Limits of Freedom


"Tallis is the best of the humanists, a thinker of undeniable profundity and sensitivity" _Anthony Morgan, The Philosopher "Will provide pleasure and instruction to all who delve into it" _ Roger Scruton "His book provides immense riches of different perspectives, theories and arguments, which he succeeds to present in a gripping way that will make even difficult concepts and ideas available to the lay reader ... " _Irmtraud Huber, Kronoscope "Tallis manages to make the issues seem fresh" _ Times Literary Supplement