Noted thinker and writer Madeleine Bunting has recently perused a few popular science books, and as a result experienced the giddy revelation that there is no such thing as a truly autonomous self. We are told that science has just discovered that popular ideas about the brain and human nature are myths, and Our Maddy of the Sorrows feels compelled to share this with her army of loyal and eager readers in Grauniadland.
Exciting stuff it is, marred only by the fact that scientists and philosophers, both natural and otherwise, have been saying similar things for donkey’s years. At least with the qualification that, for all intents and purposes, such abstract ontological reality bears little or no relevance to the day-to-day lives of actual human beings. But why bother with such trivia when there are rhetorical points to be made which have bugger all to do with the thesis expounded?