There's a fundamental, self-refuting flaw in Stephen Hawking's argument in his new book. He begins with the idea that the world is determined. Everything, including human beings, operate according to mechanistic laws of nature. Free will and agency is an illusion, he claims.
But then there's a problem with the apparently rationally-based effort to persuade us of his view, which is the apparent purpose of the book book. The goal of his book is at odds with the determinism he is committed to.
Here’s an argument against naturalistic determinism based on the relationship between free will and rationality.
Free will makes rationality possible. If there is no free will, then no one is capable of choosing to believe something because of good reasons. One could never adjudicate between a good idea and a bad one. He’d only believe what he does because he’s been predetermined to do so. Arguments wouldn’t matter.
That’s why it’s odd to hear someone try to argue for determinism. If he’s right, then his conviction is not really based on reasons--on the merits of the view itself--but on prior conditions that cause his belief. He’s determined to believe in determinism.
Without freedom, there is no rationality. So, oddly enough, if there is no free will, no one could ever know it, because they could never have a good reason to believe it.
Hawking's determinism make his case in the book moot. Either he was deteremined to write it and we are determined to respond to it as we will, thus rendering it irrational. Or we should question Hawking's fundamental claims because we know directly and surely that we are free and rational creatures.