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J.J.C. Smart

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Australian Philosopher

In the Winter 1997/98(?) issue of Free Inquiry, Smart describes himself as a "reluctant atheist" who had been brought up in Scotland as a Presbyterian, who attended a Methodist school, and who become an Anglican at Oxford. His subsequent conversion to atheism was a consequence of clashes between the religious beliefs of his upbringing and his scientific and philosophical beliefs. J.J.C. Smart is probably best known in philosophical circles for his defense of a reductive materialist philosophy of mind, which is often labelled "Australian materialism." It is sketched out in his 1962 book, Philosophy and Scientific Realism. There, he defended a realist philosophy of science and a strongly reductionist view concerning the relationships of biology with physics and chemistry, and psychology with neuroscience. Thus for Smart, mental states are nothing more than brain states. In the same book, he defended determinism against the doctrine of free will and he argued that our concepts of moral responsibility can be squared with determinism by recognizing that we allocate responsibility where rewards and punishments have tended to work as incentives and deterrents.