Does brain science change our view of free will?<sup>1</sup>


in Free Will and Modern Science

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264898
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754074 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Original Paperbacks

Does brain science change our view of free will?1

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This chapter explores the interaction between neuroscience and free will. First, it considers how freely willed actions should be defined. Second, it outlines current understanding of brain mechanisms preceding action, showing in what respects these mechanisms meet the philosophical criteria for freely willed action, and in what respects they do not. Finally, it concludes that the philosophical criteria themselves are based on two underlying psychological facts: human action involves complex mappings between environmental stimuli and goal-directed responses, and human action is associated with a range of quasi-perceptual experiences, classically called ‘motor attention’. These facts lie at the heart of our concept of conscious free will, and are directly related to the recent evolutionary development of the brain's frontal lobes.

Keywords: neuroscience; free will; action; brain mechanisms; human actions; motor attention; environmental stimuli; goal-directed response; frontal lobes

Chapter.  6053 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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