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Summary Most philosophers hold that the free will debate is largely conceptual, but at very least we must look to the sciences to discover whether the conditions we identify as required for free will are actual. For instance, if free will requires that determinism is false, we must look to physics to discover the nature of causal processes. More generally, many people have seen in the special sciences possible threats to the existence or constraints on the extent of free will.
Key works A number of philosophers have hoped to secure libertarian free will by reference to quantum mechanics. See for a signal instance Hodgson 2012. A great deal of attention has been paid to possible threats from psychology and from neuroscience. Swinburne 2011 presents essays surveying these issues while Mele 2009 is near definitive. Behavioral genetics has received less attention: Wasserman & Wachbroit 2001 is a useful collection.
Introductions Mele 2008;Mele 2011
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  1. When Is an Action Voluntary?Pamela Hieronymi - 2022 - In Uri Maoz & Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (eds.), Free will: philosophers and neuroscientists in conversation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 21–30.
    This chapter presents four different senses of “voluntary” that might be in play. First, voluntary1 movement contrasts with bodily movement not guided by the person—such as blinking or digesting, which are involuntary1. Second, you might move voluntarily1, and yet make a mistake—you might send an email to the wrong person—you then act involuntarily2. In contrast, voluntary2 action is successful. Third, you might purposely and even successfully do something you didn’t want to do—through the cargo overboard during the storm. In such (...)
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  2. Underestimating the World.Daniel Stoljar - forthcoming - Journal of Consciousness Studies.
    Galen Strawson has contrasting attitudes to consciousness and free will. In the case of the former, he says it is a fundamental element of nature whose denial is the “greatest woo-woo of the human mind.” In the case of the latter, by contrast, he says it is not merely non-existent but “provably impossible.” Why the difference? This paper suggests this distinctive pattern of positions is generated by underestimating the world (to adapt a phrase Strawson uses himself in another context). If (...)
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  3. How Manipulation Arguments Mischaracterize Determinism.Paul Torek - 2022 - Philosophical Papers 51 (3):457-475.
    I outline a heretofore neglected difference between manipulation scenarios and merely deterministic ones. Plausible scientific determinism does not imply that the relevant prior history of the universe is independent of us, while manipulation does. Owing to sensitive dependence of physical outcomes upon initial conditions, in order to trace a deterministic history, a microphysical level of analysis is required. But on this level physical laws are time-symmetrically deterministic, and causality, conceived asymmetrically, disappears. I then consider a revised scenario to resurrect the (...)
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  4. Not what I expected: Feeling of surprise differentially mediates effect of personal control on attributions of free will and responsibility.Samuel Murray & Thomas Nadelhoffer - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-25.
    Some have argued that advances in the science of human decision-making, particularly research on automaticity and unconscious priming, would ultimately thwart our commonsense understanding of free will and moral responsibility. Do people interpret this research as a threat to their self-understanding as free and responsible agents? We approached this question by seeing how feelings of surprise mediate the relationship between personal sense of control and third-personal attributions of free will and responsibility. Across three studies (N = 1,516) we found that (...)
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  5. Emergent Agent Causation.Juan Morales - 2023 - Synthese 201:138.
    In this paper I argue that many scholars involved in the contemporary free will debates have underappreciated the philosophical appeal of agent causation because the resources of contemporary emergentism have not been adequately introduced into the discussion. Whereas I agree that agent causation’s main problem has to do with its intelligibility, particularly with respect to the issue of how substances can be causally relevant, I argue that the notion of substance causation can be clearly articulated from an emergentist framework. According (...)
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  6. Quantum Foundations of Free Will.Logan Carter - manuscript
    This paper is intended to persuade an uncommitted audience that free will is illusory. I examine free will through the lens of three interpretations of quantum theory: dynamical collapse theories, hidden variable theories, and many-worlds theories. Dynamical collapse theories, hereon called collapse theories, are the primary focus of this work since they are the most widely accepted in the current philosophy of physics climate. The core postulations and mechanics of the collapse theories are articulated. Accompanying these postulations are a few (...)
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  7. Moral Responsibility Reconsidered.Gregg D. Caruso & Derk Pereboom - 2022 - Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Derk Pereboom.
    This Element examines the concept of moral responsibility as it is used in contemporary philosophical debates and explores the justifiability of the moral practices associated with it, including moral praise/blame, retributive punishment, and the reactive attitudes of resentment and indignation. After identifying and discussing several different varieties of responsibility-including causal responsibility, take-charge responsibility, role responsibility, liability responsibility, and the kinds of responsibility associated with attributability, answerability, and accountability-it distinguishes between basic and non-basic desert conceptions of moral responsibility and considers a (...)
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  8. What does it mean to inhibit an Action? A Critical Discussion of Benjamin Libet’s Veto in a Recent Study.Robert Reimer - 2022 - Software Engineering and Formal Methods. SEFM 2021 Collocated Workshops. SEFM 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol 13230.
    In the 1980s, physiologist Benjamin Libet conducted a series of ex-periments to test whether the will is free. Whilst he originally assumed that the will functions like an immaterial initiator of cerebral processes culminating in actions, he later began to think that it rather works like an immaterial veto inhib-iting unwanted actions by preventing unconsciously initiated cerebral processes from unfolding. Libet’s veto was widely criticized for its Cartesian dualist and interactionist implications. However, in 2016, Schultze-Kraft et al. adopted Libet’s idea (...)
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  9. Against the Illusory Will Hypothesis. A Reinterpretation of the Test Results in Danial Wegner and Thalia Wheatley’s I Spy Experiment.Robert Reimer - 2021 - Software Engineering and Formal Methods. SEFM 2020 Collocated Workshops. SEFM 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science.
    Since Benjamin Libet’s famous experiments in 1979, the study of the will has become a focal point in the cognitive sciences. Just like Libet the scien-tists Daniel Wegner and Thalia Wheatley came to doubt that the will is causally efficacious. In their influential study I Spy from 1999, they created an experi-mental setup to show that agents erroneously experience their actions as caused by their thoughts. Instead, these actions are caused by unconscious neural pro-cesses; the agent’s ‘causal experience of will’ (...)
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  10. The Problem and Possibility of Unashamed Citizenship: Jill Locke and Friedrich Nietzsche.Tessa de Vet - 2019 - Krisis 39 (1):56-63.
  11. Dem wissenschaftlichen Determinismus auf der Spur. Von der klassischen Mechanik zur Entstehung der Quantenphysik.Donata Romizi - 2019 - Freiburg im Breisgau, Deutschland: Karl Alber.
    The book deals with the changing nature and with the history of the concept of scientific determinism from the classical mechanics until the time immediately preceding quantum mechanics: such a historical-philosophical reconstruction is aimed at (1) signalizing and overcoming the deficiencies of the received opinion on the topic and (2) understanding better a concept which has influenced science from the beginning. -/- Before dealing with historical matters I develop in the first Chapter a kind of new, three-dimensional “measurement system” for (...)
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  12. Strong Determinism.Eddy Keming Chen - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
    A strongly deterministic theory of physics is one that permits exactly one possible history of the universe. In the words of Penrose (1989), "it is not just a matter of the future being determined by the past; the entire history of the universe is fixed, according to some precise mathematical scheme, for all time.” Such an extraordinary feature may appear unattainable in a world like ours. In this paper, I show that it can be achieved in a simple way and (...)
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  13. Obrana determinismu.Filip Tvrdý - 1997 - Proglas 8 (10):37-38.
    Reakce na článek Johna Carrolla "Proti svobodné vůli", Proglas, roč. 8, čís. 5-6 (1997), s. 14-18.
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  14. Sizing Up Free Will: The Scale of Compatibilism.Stuart Doyle - 2021 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 42 (3 & 4):271-289.
    Is human free will compatible with the natural laws of the universe? To “compatibilists” who see free actions as emanating from the wants and reasons of human agents, free will looks perfectly plausible. However, “incompatibilists” claim to see the more ultimate sources of human action. The wants and reasons of agents are said to be caused by physical processes which are themselves mere natural results of the previous state of the world and the natural laws which govern it. This paper (...)
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  15. Moral Psychology, Volume 4. [REVIEW]Joshua Shepherd - 2014 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 5 (19).
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  16. Ciencia, libertad y ética.Gustavo E. Romero - 2020 - Ciencia Del Sur 2 (12.08.2020):1-34.
    La representación científica del mundo se construye sobre un tejido de teorías en las cuales hay enunciados generales que representan leyes naturales. Estas leyes son patrones de sucesos regulares. Un presupuesto básico de la ciencia es que todo acontecimiento es legal: ocurre regido por leyes que son fijas. ¿Es compatible esa legalidad con la libertad de elección que creemos tener? ¿Cuáles son las implicaciones para la libertad política que debemos esperar en una sociedad organizada y racional? ¿Cuál es el rol (...)
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  17. Henry P. Stapp. Quantum Theory and Free Will: How Mental Intentions Translate into Bodily Actions.Alin Christoph Cucu - 2020 - Philosophia Christi 22 (1):175-179.
  18. Desperately seeking sourcehood.Hannah Tierney & David Glick - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (4):953-970.
    In a recent essay, Deery and Nahmias :1255–1276, 2017) utilize interventionism about causation to develop an account of causal sourcehood in order to defend compatibilism about free will and moral responsibility from manipulation arguments. In this paper, we criticize Deery and Nahmias’s analysis of sourcehood by drawing a distinction between two forms of causal invariance that can come into conflict on their account. We conclude that any attempt to resolve this conflict will either result in counterintuitive attributions of moral responsibility (...)
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  19. Free Will: Real or Illusion - A Debate.Gregg D. Caruso, Christian List & Cory J. Clark - 2020 - The Philosopher 108 (1).
    Debate on free will with Christian List, Gregg Caruso, and Cory Clark. The exchange is focused on Christian List's book Why Free Will Is Real.
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  20. Free Will and Compatibilism.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    The author mounts a case against the libertarian and hard determinist's thesis that free will is impossible in a deterministic world. He charges incompatibilists with misconstruing ordinary 'free will' talk by overlaying common language with their own metaphysical presuppositions. Through a review of ordinary discourse and recent developments in jurisprudence and the sciences, he draws together the four key factors required for an act to be free. He then puts his 4C theory to work in giving a credible account of (...)
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  21. Why Free Will is Real.Christian List - 2019 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
    Philosophers have argued about the nature and the very existence of free will for centuries. Today, many scientists and scientifically minded commentators are skeptical that it exists, especially when it is understood to require the ability to choose between alternative possibilities. If the laws of physics govern everything that happens, they argue, then how can our choices be free? Believers in free will must be misled by habit, sentiment, or religious doctrine. Why Free Will Is Real defies scientific orthodoxy and (...)
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  22. Behavioral explanations reduce retributive punishment but not reward: The mediating role of conscious will.Joshua A. Confer & William J. Chopik - 2019 - Consciousness and Cognition 75:102808.
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  23. Respuestas a los comentaristas.Carlos Moya - 2018 - Quaderns de Filosofia 5 (1):127-147.
    Replies to commentators Respuestas a los comentarios críticos de Carlos Patarroyo, Mirja Pérez de Calleja y Pablo Rychter.
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  24. Sinopsis de "El libre albedrío. Un estudio filosófico".Carlos Moya - 2018 - Quaderns de Filosofia 5 (1):83-89.
    Précis of El libre albedrío. Un estudio filosófico En este libro nos hemos planteado varios objetivos. En primer lugar, ofrecer al lector una guía o mapa que le oriente en el complejo territorio del debate sobre el libre albedrío. En segundo lugar, abogar por una determinada concepción del libre albedrío, a saber, el libertarismo, frente a otras posibles, en especial el compatibilismo. En tercer lugar, defender la existencia del libre albedrío frente a diversos desafíos, de tipos también diversos, que la (...)
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  25. The hand of God or the hand of Maradona? Believing in free will increases perceived intentionality of others’ behavior.Oliver Genschow, Davide Rigoni & Marcel Brass - 2019 - Consciousness and Cognition 70 (C):80-87.
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  26. Free actions as a natural kind.Oisín Deery - 2021 - Synthese 198 (1):823-843.
    Do we have free will? Understanding free will as the ability to act freely, and free actions as exercises of this ability, I maintain that the default answer to this question is “yes.” I maintain that free actions are a natural kind, by relying on the influential idea that kinds are homeostatic property clusters. The resulting position builds on the view that agents are a natural kind and yields an attractive alternative to recent revisionist accounts of free action. My view (...)
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  27. Agent-causal libertarianism, statistical neural laws and wild coincidences.Jason D. Runyan - 2018 - Synthese 195 (10):4563-4580.
    Agent-causal libertarians maintain we are irreducible agents who, by acting, settle matters that aren’t already settled. This implies that the neural matters underlying the exercise of our agency don’t conform to deterministic laws, but it does not appear to exclude the possibility that they conform to statistical laws. However, Pereboom (Noûs 29:21–45, 1995; Living without free will, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001; in: Nadelhoffer (ed) The future of punishment, Oxford University Press, New York, 2013) has argued that, if these neural (...)
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  28. Downward causation and supervenience: the non-reductionist’s extra argument for incompatibilism.Joana Rigato - 2018 - Philosophical Explorations 21 (3):384-399.
    Agent-causal theories of free will, which rely on a non-reductionist account of the agent, have traditionally been associated with libertarianism. However, some authors have recently argued in favor of compatibilist agent-causal accounts. In this essay, I will show that such accounts cannot avoid serious problems of implausibility or incoherence. A careful analysis of the implications of non-reductionist views of the agent (event-causal or agent-causal as they may be) reveals that such views necessarily imply either the denial of the principle of (...)
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  29. The Philosophy of Free Will: Essential Readings From the Contemporary Debates.Paul Russell & Oisin Deery (eds.) - 2013 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    This collection provides a selection of the most essential contributions to the contemporary free will debate. Among the issues discussed and debated are skepticism and naturalism, alternate possibilities, the consequence argument, libertarian metaphysics, illusionism and revisionism, optimism and pessimism, neuroscience and free will, and experimental philosophy.
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  30. Physical Science and Man's Position.Niels Bohr - 1957 - Philosophy Today 1 (1):65-69.
  31. Scientific Beliefs about Oneself.Donald MacKay - 1970 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures 4:48-63.
    In the never-ending debate about the scope and limits of science, the hottest argument now centres on the scientific study of man himself. Can there be a science of man at all, in any comprehensive sense? Or is the idea in some way ultimately self-defeating, like that of pulling oneself up by one's own shoelaces? My purpose in this paper is not to venture a direct answer to this ticklish question, but rather to highlight one or two desirable characteristics of (...)
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  32. Paradox and tragedy in human morality.Pouwel Slurink - 1994 - International Political Science Review 15 (347):378.
    An evolutionary approach to ethics supports, to some extent, the sceptical meta-ethics found by some of the Greek sophists and Nietzsche. On the other hand, a modern naturalistic account on the origin and nature of morality, leads to somewhat different conclusions. This is demonstrated with an answer to three philosophical questions: does real freedom exist?, does the good, or real virtue, exist?, does life have a meaning?
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  33. Do split brains listen to prozac?Gregory R. Peterson - 2004 - Zygon 39 (3):555-576.
    . Cognitive science challenges our understandings of self and freedom. In this article, adapted from a chapter in Minding God: Theology and the Cognitive Sciences , I review some of the scientific literature with regard to issues of self and freedom. I argue that our sense of self is a construct and heavily dependent on the kind of brain that we have. Furthermore, understanding the issue of freedom requires an understanding of the findings of cognitive science. Human beings are constrained (...)
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Free Will and Genetics
  1. Hooked—Food, free will, and how the food giants exploit our addictions. By Michael Moss: Random House, 2021. ISBN 978-0-8129-9729-3. [REVIEW]John F. Hulpke - 2022 - Business and Society Review 127 (2):531-534.
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  2. Reseña de ‘¿Estamos cableados?’ (Are We Hardwired?) por Clark & Grunstein Oxford (2000).Michael Richard Starks - 2020 - In Comprender las Conexiones entre Ciencia, Filosofía, Psicología, Religión, Política, Economía, Historia y Literatura- Artículos y reseñas 2006-2019. Las Vegas, NV USA: Reality Press. pp. 345-348.
    Esta es una excelente revisión de las interacciones gen/ambiente en el comportamiento y, a pesar de ser un poco anticuado, es una lectura fácil y valiosa. Empiezan con estudios gemelos que muestran el impacto abrumador de la genética en el comportamiento. Señalan los estudios cada vez más conocidos de Judith Harris, que amplían y resumen los hechos de que el ambiente doméstico compartido casi no tiene efecto sobre el comportamiento y que los niños adoptados crecen para ser tan diferentes de (...)
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  3. Altruism, Jesus and the End of the World—how the Templeton Foundation bought a Harvard Professorship and attacked Evolution, Rationality and Civilization. A review of E.O. Wilson 'The Social Conquest of Earth' (2012) and Nowak and Highfield ‘SuperCooperators’(2012)(review revised 2019).Michael Starks - 2019 - In Suicidal Utopian Delusions in the 21st Century -- Philosophy, Human Nature and the Collapse of Civilization-- Articles and Reviews 2006-2019 4th Edition Michael Starks. Las Vegas, NV USA: Reality Press. pp. 377-391.
    Famous ant-man E.O. Wilson has always been one of my heroes --not only an outstanding biologist, but one of the tiny and vanishing minority of intellectuals who at least dares to hint at the truth about our nature that others fail to grasp, or insofar as they do grasp, studiously avoid for political expedience. Sadly, he is ending his long career in a most sordid fashion as a party to an ignorant and arrogant attack on science motivated at least in (...)
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  4. No Free Will.Will Provine - 1999 - Isis 90 (S2):S117-S132.
  5. Free-will as a function of divergence.Ivan D. London - 1948 - Psychological Review 55 (1):41-47.
  6. Genetics and Criminal Behavior.David Wasserman & Robert Wachbroit (eds.) - 2001 - Cambridge University Press.
    In this 2001 volume a group of leading philosophers address some of the basic conceptual, methodological and ethical issues raised by genetic research into criminal behavior. The essays explore the complexities of tracing any genetic influence on criminal, violent or antisocial behavior; the varieties of interpretations to which evidence of such influences is subject; and the relevance of such influences to the moral and legal appraisal of criminal conduct. The distinctive features of this collection are: first, that it advances public (...)
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  7. Kane is Not Able: A Reply to Vicens’ “Self-Forming Actions and Confl icts of Intention”.Gregg D. Caruso - 2015 - Southwest Philosophy Review 31 (2):21-26.
  8. Embodied free will beliefs: Some effects of physical states on metaphysical opinions.Michael R. Ent & Roy F. Baumeister - 2014 - Consciousness and Cognition 27:147-154.
  9. The true ramifications of genetic criminality research for free will in the criminal justice system.Ozan Onay - 2006 - Genomics, Society and Policy 2 (1):80-91.
    There is an explicit belief – evident in jurisprudential literature – that developments in behavioural genetics in the very near future will necessitate a dramatic revolution in common law criminal justice systems. This paper considers what is truly shown by behavioural genetics in relation to free will, and the effect of such conclusions on criminal justice systems which rely upon the concept of free will as a foundation element. This paper ultimately concludes that it is unlikely that criminal justice systems (...)
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  10. Freedom Evolves. [REVIEW]John Martin Fischer - 2003 - Journal of Philosophy 100 (12):632-637.
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  11. Free will and the genome project.Patricia S. Greenspan - 1993 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 22 (1):31-43.
    Popular and scientific accounts of the U.S. Human Genome Project often express concern about the implications of the project for the philosophic question of free will and responsibility. However, on its standard construal within philosophy, the question of free will versus determinism poses no special problems in relation to genetic research. The paper identifies a variant version of the free will question, free will versus internal constraint, that might well pose a threat to notions of individual autonomy and virtue in (...)
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  12. Free will and genetic determinism: Locating the problem.Patricia S. Greenspan - manuscript
    I was led to this clarificatory job initially by some puzzlement from a philosopher's standpoint about just why free will questions should come up particularly in connection with the genome project, as opposed to the many other scientific research programs that presuppose determinism. The philosophic concept of determinism involves explanation of all events, including human action, by prior causal factors--so that whether or not human behavior has a genetic basis, it ultimately gets traced back to _something_ true of the world (...)
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  13. Genes, electrotransmitters, and free will.Patricia S. Greenspan - 2001 - In Patricia S. Greenspan, David Wasserman & Robert Wachbroit (eds.), Genetics and Criminal Behavior: Methods, Meanings, and Morals. Cambridge University Press.
    There seems to be evidence of a genetic component in criminal behavior. It is widely agreed not to be "deterministic"--by which discussions outside philosophy seem to mean that by itself it is not sufficient to determine behavior. Environmental factors make a decisive difference--for that matter, there are nongenetic biological factors--in whether and how genetic.
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  14. Genetic and Generic Determinism: A New Threat to Free Will?Peter Lipton - 2004 - In D. Rees & Steven P. R. Rose (eds.), The New Brain Sciences: Perils and Prospects. Cambridge University Press. pp. 88.
    We are discovering more and more about the human genotypes and about the connections between genotype and behaviour. Do these advances in genetic information threaten our free will? This paper offers a philosopher’s perspective on the question.
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  15. Igniting the flicker of freedom: Revisiting the Frankfurt scenario.Garry Young - 2007 - Philosophia 35 (2):171-180.
    This paper aims to challenge the view that the sign present in many Frankfurt-style scenarios is insufficiently robust to constitute evidence for the possibility of an alternate decision, and therefore inadequate as a means of determining moral responsibility. I have amended Frankfurt’s original scenario, so as to allow Jones, as well as Black, the opportunity to monitor his (Jones’s) own inclination towards a particular decision (the sign). Different outcome possibilities are presented, to the effect that Jones’s awareness of his own (...)
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Free Will and Neuroscience
  1. Revisiting Neuroscientific Skepticism about Free Will.Alfred R. Mele - 2023 - The Harvard Review of Philosophy 30:95-108.
    Benefiting from recent work in neuroscience, this paper rebuts a pair of neuroscience-based arguments for the non-existence of free will. Well-known neuroscientific experiments that have often been cited in support of skepticism about free will are critically examined. Various problems are identified with attempts to use their findings to support the claim that free will is an illusion. It is argued on scientific grounds that certain assumptions made in these skeptical arguments are unjustified—namely, assumptions about the times at which decisions (...)
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  2. What Is a Will?Pamela Hieronymi - 2022 - In Uri Maoz & Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (eds.), Free will: philosophers and neuroscientists in conversation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 11–20.
    This chapter presents two contrasting pictures of the will. On the first, “the will” is a psychological structure or module within a person that originates spontaneous or endogenous activity, independently of external influence. On the second, “the will” is that collection of ordinary states of mind (cares, concerns, beliefs, desires, commitments, fears, etc.) that generates intentional, or voluntary, or responsible activity—it is the functioning together of those aspects of mind that account for human activity. A challenge is posed for each. (...)
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