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Summary Free will is partially an issue in the philosophy of mind, so growing knowledge of the brain - which obviously has some kind of intimate relationship with the mind - might prove relevant to our understanding of free will. Most of the interest in neuroscience by philosophers and scientists has concerned whether neuroscience might show that free will is an illusion; the focus has especially been on whether conscious intentions are epiphenomenal. Neuroscientist might also illuminate how the powers required for free will - rational reflection and decision-making, centrally - are implemented.
Key works Benjamin Libet's [Libet 1999 ] claims about the timing of conscious states has been a central focus of work on this topic. This work has spawned a mini-industry; landmarks here include the papers collected in Sinnott-Armstrong & Nadel 2010 and - especially - Mele Alfred 2009, a monograph that carefully sets out the limits ofLibet's claims. Some neuroscientists have argued that neuroscience eliminates responsibility because the brain is deterministic; Balaguer 2010 is a book-length examination of this claim.
Introductions Banks & Pockett 2007;Mele 2011
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  1. Seeking the Everyday Meaning of Autonomy in Neurologic Disorders.George J. Agich - 2004 - Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 11 (4):295-298.
  2. Neurological Information Processing and Free Persons.Rosemary Agonito - 1975 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 13 (1):3-11.
  3. Robert Kane, Free Will, and Neuro-Indeterminism.Roksana Alavi - 2005 - Philo 8 (2):95-108.
    In this paper I argue that Robert Kane’s defense of event-causal libertarianism, as presented in Responsibility, Luck, and Chance: Reflections on Free Will and Indeterminism, fails because his event-causal reconstruction is incoherent. I focus on the notions of efforts and self-forming actions essential to his defense.
  4. Robert Kane, Free Will and Neuro-Indeterminism.Roksana Alavi - 2005 - Philo 8 (2):95-108.
    In this paper I argue that Robert Kane’s defense of event-causal libertarianism, as presented in Responsibility, Luck, and Chance: Reflections on Free Will and Indeterminism, fails because his event-causal reconstruction is incoherent. I focus on the notions of efforts and self-forming actions essential to his defense.
  5. Introduction: Free Will, Neuroscience, and the Participant Perspective.Joel Anderson - 2007 - Philosophical Explorations 10 (1):3 – 11.
  6. Walter's Neurophilosophy of Free Will: A Review.Kristin Andrews - 2003 - Philo 6:166.
  7. Neurophilosophy of Free Will: From Libertarian Illusions to a Concept of Natural Autonomy by Henrik Walter.Kristin Andrews - 2003 - Philo 6 (1):166-175.
  8. Neurophilosophy of Free Will by Henrik Walter.Kristin Andrews - 2003 - Philo 6 (1):166-175.
  9. Review of Neurophilosophy of Free Will: From Libertarian Illusions to a Concept of Natural Autonomy, Henrik Walter. [REVIEW]Kristin Andrews - 2001 - Philo 6 (1).
    The question of whether humans have free will, like the question of the meaning of life, is one whose answer depends on how the question itself is interpreted. In his recent book Neurophilosophy of Free Will: From Libertarian Illusions to a Concept of Natural Autonomy, Henrik Walter examines whether free will is possible in a deterministic natural world, and he concludes that the answer is "It depends" (xi). He rejects a libertarian account of free will as internally inconsistent, but argues (...)
  10. Consciousness and Moral Responsibility, by Levy, Neil.Nomy Arpaly - 2015 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (4):829-831.
  11. Towards a New Experience of Free Time: Free Time as the Origin of Critical Consciousness.Miroslav Artić - 2009 - Filozofska Istrazivanja 29 (2):281-295.
  12. On Determinacy or its Absence in the Brain.Harald Atmanspacher & Stefan Rotter - 2011 - In Richard Swinburne (ed.), Free Will and Modern Science. Oup/British Academy.
    This chapter analyzes the different ways to describe brain behaviour with the goal to provide a basis for an informed discussion of the nature of decisions and actions that humans perform in their lives. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 2 outlines a number of concepts exhibiting how many subtle details and distinctions lie behind the broad notions of determinacy and stochasticity. These details are necessary for a discussion, in Section 3, of particular aspects relevant for the characterization of (...)
  13. Free Will.Mark Balaguer - 2014 - MIT Press.
    A philosopher considers whether the scientific and philosophical arguments against free will are reason enough to give up our belief in it.
  14. Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem.Mark Balaguer - 2010 - MIT Press.
    In this largely antimetaphysical treatment of free will and determinism, Mark Balaguer argues that the philosophical problem of free will boils down to an open ...
  15. We Infer Rather Than Perceive the Moment We Decided to Act.William P. Banks & Eve A. Isham - 2009 - Psychological Science 20 (1):17.
    A seminal experiment found that the reported time of a decision to perform a simple action was at least 300 ms after the onset of brain activity that normally preceded the action. In Experiment 1, we presented deceptive feedback (an auditory beep) 5 to 60 ms after the action to signify a movement time later than the actual movement. The reported time of decision moved forward in time linearly with the delay in feedback, and came after the muscular initiation of (...)
  16. Benjamin Libet's Work on the Neuroscience of Free Will.William P. Banks & Susan Pockett - 2007 - In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell. pp. 657--670.
  17. Mental Causation and Free Will After Libet and Soon: Reclaiming Conscious Agency.Alexander Batthyany - 2009 - In Alexander Batthyany & Avshalom Elitzur (eds.), Irreducibly Conscious. Selected Papers on Consciousness. Winter.
    There are numerous theoretical reasons which are usually said to undermine the case for mental causation. But in recent years, Libet‘s experiment on readiness potentials (Libet, Wright, and Gleason 1982; Libet, Gleason, Wright, and Pearl 1983), and a more recent replication by a research team led by John Dylan Haynes (Soon, C.S., Brass, M., Heinze, H.J., and Haynes, J.-D. [2008]) are often singled out because they appear to demonstrate empirically that consciousness is not causally involved in our choices and actions. (...)
  18. Irreducibly Conscious. Selected Papers on Consciousness.Alexander Batthyany & Avshalom C. Elitzur (eds.) - 2009 - Winter.
  19. Free Will and Consciousness: How Might They Work?Roy F. Baumeister, Alfred R. Mele & Kathleen D. Vohs (eds.) - 2010 - University Press.
    This volume is aimed at readers who wish to move beyond debates about the existence of free will and the efficacy of consciousness and closer to appreciating ...
  20. Libet and the Case for Free Will Scepticism.Tim Bayne - 2011 - In Richard Swinburne (ed.), Free Will and Modern Science. Oup/British Academy.
    Free will sceptics claim that we do not possess free will—or at least, that we do not possess nearly as much free will as we think we do. Some free will sceptics hold that the very notion of free will is incoherent, and that no being could possibly possess free will (Strawson this volume). Others allow that the notion of free will is coherent, but hold that features of our cognitive architecture prevent us from possessing free will. My concern in (...)
  21. Free Will Sans Metaphysics?Helen Beebee - 2012 - Metascience 21 (1):77-81.
    Free will sans metaphysics? Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9525-5 Authors Helen Beebee, Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
  22. Voluntary Action and Neural Causation.Hanoch Ben-Yami - 2014 - Cognitive Neuroscience 5:217-218.
    I agree with Nachev and Hacker’s general approach. However, their criticism of claims of covert automaticity can be strengthened. I first say a few words on what voluntary action involves and on the consequent limited relevance of brain research for the determination of voluntariness. I then turn to Nachev and Hacker’s discussion of possible covert automaticity and show why the case for it is weaker than they allow.
  23. Contentsintroductionmorality in Times of Naturalising the Mind – an Overviewpart I: Free Will, Responsibility and the Naturalised Mind1. Naturalizing Free Will – Empirical and Conceptual Issues2. Libet’s Experiments and the Possibility of Free Conscious Decision3. The Effectiveness of Intentions – a Critique of Wegnerpart II: Naturalising Ethics? – Metaethical Perspectives4. Neuroethics and the Rationalism/Sentimentalism Divide5. Experimental Ethics – a Critical Analysispart III: Naturalised Ethics? Empirical Perspectives6. Moral Soulfulness & Moral Hypocrisy – is Scientific Study of Moral Agency Relevant to Ethical Reflection?Part IV: Neuroethics – Which Values?7. The Rationale Behind Surgery –Truth, Facts, Valuesbiographical Notes on the Authorsname Index. [REVIEW]Arnaldo Benini - 2014 - In Christoph Lumer (ed.), Morality in Times of Naturalising the Mind. De Gruyter. pp. 195-202.
  24. Action and Awareness of Agency: Comments on Chris Frith.José Luis Bermúdez - 2010 - Pragmatics and Cognitionpragmatics and Cognition 18 (3):576-588.
    Chris Frith's target chapters contain a wealth of interesting experiments and striking theoretical claims. In these comments I begin by drawing out some of the key themes in his discussion of action and the sense of agency. Frith's central claim about conscious action is that what we are primarily conscious of in acting is our own agency. I will review some of the experimental evidence that he interprets in support of this claim and then explore the following three questions about (...)
  25. Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language, and Political Power. By John R. Searle.Dennis Bielfeldt - 2009 - Zygon 44 (4):999-1002.
  26. Free Will Skepticism and Bypassing.Gunnar Björnsson & Derk Pereboom - 2014 - In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology, Vol. 4. MIT Press. pp. 27–35.
    Discusses Eddy Nahmias' “Is Free Will an Illusion?”.
  27. Consciousness And Freedom: Three Views.Pratima Bowes - 1971 - Methuen.
  28. Recovering From Libet's Left Turn Into Veto-as-Volition: A Proposal for Dealing Honestly with the Central Mystery of Libet (1983).Conal Boyce - 2012 - Open Journal of Philosophy 2 (1):17-24.
    With certain topics the general reader experiences a double-whammy wherein one must peer through a curtain of needlessly obscure jargon to try glimpsing something that is inherently weird in nature. Bell’s nonlocality was once such a topic, but authors have had considerable success over the years in showing where the line is between the enigma itself and the human-made oddities surrounding it . Libet-ology has yet to undergo that de-mystifying process. Accordingly, our first order of business here is to restate (...)
  29. Moral Responsibility and Mental Illness: A Case Study.Matthew Broome, Lisa Bortolotti & Matteo Mameli - 2010 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19 (2):179-187.
    Various authors have argued that progress in the neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric sciences might threaten the commonsense understanding of how the mind generates behavior, and, as a consequence, it might also threaten the commonsense ways of attributing moral responsibility, if not the very notion of moral responsibility. In the case of actions that result in undesirable outcomes, the commonsense conception—which is reflected in sophisticated ways in the legal conception—tells us that there are circumstances in which the agent is entirely and fully (...)
  30. The Action of the Mind.Jean E. Burns - 2012 - In I. Fredriksson (ed.), Aspects of Consciousness. McFarland. pp. 204.
    It is assumed that mental action, such as free will, exists, and an exploration is made of its relationship to the brain, physical laws, and evolutionary selection. If the assumption is made that all content of conscious experience is encoded in the brain, it follows that free will must act as process only. This result is consistent with the experimental results of Libet and others that if free will exists, it must act by making a selection between alternatives provided by (...)
  31. What Does the Mind Do That the Brain Does Not?Jean E. Burns - 2010 - In R. L. Amoroso (ed.), The Complementarity of Mind and Body: Fulfilling the Dream of Descartes, Einstein and Eccles. Nova Science.
    Two forms of independent action by consciousness have been proposed by various researchers – free will and holistic processing. (Holistic processing contributes to the formation of behavior through the holistic use of brain programs and encoding.) The well-known experiment of Libet et al. (1983) implies that if free will exists, its action must consist of making a selection among alternatives presented by the brain. As discussed herein, this result implies that any physical changes mind can produce in the brain are (...)
  32. Volition and Physical Laws.Jean E. Burns - 1999 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 6 (10):27-47.
    The concept of free will is central to our lives, as we make day-to-day decisions, and to our culture, in our ethical and legal systems. The very concept implies that what we choose can produce a change in our physical environment, whether by pressing a switch to turn out electric lights or choosing a long-term plan of action which can affect many people. Yet volition is not a part of presently known physical laws and it is not even known whether (...)
  33. Commentaries on David Hodgson's "a Plain Person's Free Will".Graham Cairns-Smith, Thomas W. Clark, Ravi Gomatam, Robert H. Kane, Nicholas Maxwell, J. J. C. Smart, Sean A. Spence & Henry P. Stapp - 2005 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 12 (1):20-75.
    REMARKS ON EVOLUTION AND TIME-SCALES, Graham Cairns-Smith; HODGSON'S BLACK BOX, Thomas Clark; DO HODGSON'S PROPOSITIONS UNIQUELY CHARACTERIZE FREE WILL?, Ravi Gomatam; WHAT SHOULD WE RETAIN FROM A PLAIN PERSON'S CONCEPT OF FREE WILL?, Gilberto Gomes; ISOLATING DISPARATE CHALLENGES TO HODGSON'S ACCOUNT OF FREE WILL, Liberty Jaswal; FREE AGENCY AND LAWS OF NATURE, Robert Kane; SCIENCE VERSUS REALIZATION OF VALUE, NOT DETERMINISM VERSUS CHOICE, Nicholas Maxwell; COMMENTS ON HODGSON, J.J.C. Smart; THE VIEW FROM WITHIN, Sean Spence; COMMENTARY ON HODGSON, Henry Stapp.
  34. Review of Mark Balaguer, Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem[REVIEW]Joseph Keim Campbell - 2010 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (5).
  35. DID I DO IT? -YEAH, YOU DID!Muñoz-Suárez Carlos M. & Campis René J. - 2008 - Reduction and Elimination in Philosophy and the Sciences:34- 37.
    In this paper we analyze Libet’s conclusions on «free will» (FW), rejecting his view of the concept and defending a partially aligned view with Wittgenstein’s early remarks on FW. First, the concept of Readiness Potential (RP) and Libet’s view are presented. Second, we offer an account of Wittgenstein´s point of view. Third, a dual-domain analysis is proposed; finally, we offer our conclusions. This article´s conclusion is part of an ongoing research.
  36. Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will.Gregg Caruso - 2013 - Lexington Books.
    This book argues two main things: The first is that there is no such thing as free will—at least not in the sense most ordinary folk take to be central or fundamental; the second is that the strong and pervasive belief in free will can be accounted for through a careful analysis of our phenomenology and a proper theoretical understanding of consciousness.
  37. Perception Dualism and Free Will.Gang Chen - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 42:13-42.
    This paper is to spell out a version of perception dualism, whose ontological description of the mind-body relation is stronger than property dualism but weaker than substance dualism, that is, to define mental events as perceptions from an internal point of view and physical events as perceptions from an external point of view, then, the author set out to tackle some long-persisting ontological issues in philosophy of mind, such as the psycho-physical interaction, the criterion of mind, the clash between free (...)
  38. Brain, Self and Free Will.Ming-Chuan Chou - 2005 - Philosophy and Culture 32 (10):97-118.
    This two-part, mainly to explore the neurobiological scientists proposed "new image": In the first part, I will apply on the proposed neural biological sciences "new image." The second part, I will examine the neurobiology challenge success. I concluded with three points: mental status can not be based around the physical phenomena; edge of the system can not completely control the will of the act; the self is not the brain, the self is a social and cultural construction. The current study (...)
  39. The Big Questions: Do We Have Free Will?Patricia Churchland - manuscript
    As neuroscience uncovers these and other mechanisms regulating choices and social behaviour, we cannot help but wonder whether anyone truly chooses anything (though see "Is the universe deterministic?"). As a result, profound questions about responsibility are inescapable, not just regarding criminal justice, but in the day-to-day business of life. Given that, I suggest that free will, as traditionally understood, needs modification. Because of its importance in society, any description of free will updated to fit what we know about the nervous (...)
  40. Brain Wise.Patricia Smith Churchland - 2002 - The MIT Press.
    A neurophilosopher?s take on the self, free will, human understanding, and the experience of God, from the perspective of the brain.
  41. 7 Soft Selves and Ecological Control.Andy Clark - 2007 - In Don Ross, David Spurrett, Harold Kincaid & G. Lynn Stephens (eds.), Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual Volition and Social Context. MIT Press. pp. 101.
  42. Fear of Mechanism: A Compatibilist Critique of The Volitional Brain.Thomas W. Clark - 1997 - In Libet, B., Freeman, A., Sutherland & K. (eds.), Journal of Consciousness Studies. Imprint Academic. pp. 8-9.
    This article reviews contributions to The Volitional Brain, some of which defend a libertarian, contra-causal account of free will, while others take a so-called compatibilist view, in which adequate conceptions of human liberty and moral responsibility are claimed to be compatible with naturalistic causality. Siding with compatibilism, this review finds that defenders of libertarian free will place undue weight on the first person feeling of freedom, while discounting scientific evidence that human choices are fully a function of antecedent causes at (...)
  43. Contentsintroductionmorality in Times of Naturalising the Mind – an Overviewpart I: Free Will, Responsibility and the Naturalised Mind1. Naturalizing Free Will – Empirical and Conceptual Issues2. Libet’s Experiments and the Possibility of Free Conscious Decision3. The Effectiveness of Intentions – a Critique of Wegnerpart II: Naturalising Ethics? – Metaethical Perspectives4. Neuroethics and the Rationalism/Sentimentalism Divide5. Experimental Ethics – a Critical Analysispart III: Naturalised Ethics? Empirical Perspectives6. Moral Soulfulness & Moral Hypocrisy – is Scientific Study of Moral Agency Relevant to Ethical Reflection?Part IV: Neuroethics – Which Values?7. The Rationale Behind Surgery –Truth, Facts, Valuesbiographical Notes on the Authorsname Index. [REVIEW]Antonella Corradini - 2014 - In Christoph Lumer (ed.), Morality in Times of Naturalising the Mind. De Gruyter. pp. 145-162.
  44. Freedom and Neurobiology, by John Searle.Richard Corrigan - 2008 - Philosophy Now 66:40-41.
  45. Behavioral Neurogenetics Beyond Determinism.Wim E. Crusio - 1999 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (5):890-891.
    Rose's Lifelines justifiably attacks the rigid genetic determinism that pervades the popular press and even some scientific writing. Genes do not equate with destiny. However, Rose's argument should not be taken too far: genes do influence behavior, in animals as well as in man.
  46. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness.G. N. Dolson, Henri Bergson & F. L. Pogson - 1911 - Philosophical Review 20 (3):345.
  47. The Idea of Will.M. M. Dorenbosch - 2015 - Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research 6 (7):449-472.
    This article presents a new conceptual view on the conscious will. This new concept approaches our will from the perspective of the requirements of our neural-muscular system and not from our anthropocentric perspective. This approach not only repositions the will at the core of behavior control, it also integrates the studies of Libet and Wegner, which seem to support the opposite. The will does not return as an instrument we use to steer, but rather as part of the way we (...)
  48. The Role of Unconsciousness in Free Will.Paula Droege - 2010 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (5-6):5-6.
    Does neuroscience show that free will is an illusion? No, it shows that unconscious mental states are causally effective in action. Because free will includes initiation by both conscious and unconscious states, the self as free agent should be characterized in terms of more than her conscious deliberations to range over unconscious beliefs, memories and feelings. Further, the ways social relations influence action and the ways actions influence the social environment are relevant to a full account of free will. Given (...)
  49. Free Will, Freedom of Choice and Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration.D. A. Drubach, A. A. Rabinstein & J. Molano - 2011 - Mens Sana Monographs 9 (1):238.
    The question whether human beings have free will has been debated by philosophers and theologians for thousands of years. More recently, neuroscientists have applied novel concepts and tools in neuroscience to address this question. We submit that human beings do have free will and the physiological substrate for its exercise is contained within neural networks. We discuss the potential neurobiology of free will by exploring volitionally initiated motor activity and the behavioural-response to a stimulus-response paradigm. We also submit that the (...)
  50. Is It Me or My Brain? Depression and Neuroscientific Facts.Joseph Dumit - 2003 - Journal of Medical Humanities 24 (1/2):35-47.
    This article considers the roles played by brain images (e.g., from PET scans) in mass media as experienced by people suffering from mental illness, and as used by scientists and activist groups in demonstrating a biological basis for mental illness. Examining the rhetorical presentation of images in magazines and books, the article describes the persuasive power that brain images have in altering the understanding people have of their own body—their objective self. Analyzing first-person accounts of encounters with brain images, it (...)
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