What are mind-body problems? Are they problems of science? Philosophy? Economics? Theology? The latest EconTalk guest, science writer John Horgan, calls them the problem of who we are, the very problems posed by human nature. This conversation explores these questions and more, getting to heart of what it really means to be human.

Horgan discusses his book, Mind-Body Problems with host Russ Roberts, which is a series of profiles of nine individuals (including economist Deirdre McCloskey) demonstrating how people’s personal experiences influence their perspectives. (P.S. Horgan’s book is also available in its entirety online at zero price… Take advantage!) Horgan ultimately concludes that what we need to really explore the connection between mind and body is freedom, yet “”freedom means different things to different people.”

1- How does science limit our freedom and personal identity, according to Horgan? What does he mean when he says, “I see that our effort to figure out what reality is and what we are as being in this tension with our desire for freedom.”

2- Horgan says he sees history as a series of widening our opportunities to make choices, and that, “…the amount of freedom that we have today is so much more than–certainly than what was available when I was a kid..” To what extent do you agree?

3- What are the problems of capitalism as Horgan sees them? How does this compare to Russ’s worries? Who is the more optimistic of the two, and why?

4- Horgan professes that he needs  free will (indeed he says more than he even needs God). He also notes many illustrious scientists- Einstein included- do not believe in free will. Do you  believe in free will? What grounds your (dis)belief? To what extent do you agree with Roberts that without free will, we wouldn’t try to be better?

5- Have you ever had a sort of identity crisis? How did you resolve it? To what extent do you think self-awareness as an “old man’s game,” as Roberts suggests?

P.S. Did you get the reference in this week’s title?