Neurophilosophy of Free Will

Henrik Walter

in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780195178548
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Neurophilosophy of Free Will

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This article discusses the role of the frontal cortex of the brain in the planning of actions, the selection from various options, and the organizing of behavior over time. It considers neurological evidence for and against the claim that this region of the brain is the seat of the “will” in human beings. It argues that the functions of willing (deliberation, planning, and the like) are distributed throughout the brain, though the prefrontal areas play a pivotal role by providing a link between the cortical regions involved in higher cognitive functioning and other parts of the brain that are the sources of emotions, feelings, and motor reactions. The article also discusses neurological evidence suggesting that the interruption of circuits involving the frontal cortex and related parts of the brain due to lesions or other deficiencies gives rise to disturbances in the feeling of agency. These include “alien hand syndrome” (where the patient's hand seems to have a “will of its own”), obsessive-compulsive disorders, and the “self-disorder” of schizophrenics, where patients feel that certain experiences and mental actions no longer belong to themselves or are produced outside of themselves.

Keywords: frontal cortex; brain; willing; agency; alien hand syndrome; obsessive-compulsive disorders; self-disorder; schizophrenia

Article.  5151 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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