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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. 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 (...)
  2. 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?
Free Will and Genetics
  1. Kane is Not Able: A Reply to Vicens' 'Self-Forming Actions and Conflicts of Intention'.Gregg Caruso - 2015 - Southwest Philosophy Review 31 (2):21-26.
  2. Freedom Evolves.John Martin Fischer - 2003 - Journal of Philosophy 100 (12):632-637.
  3. 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 (...)
  4. 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.
  5. 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 (...)
  6. 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.
  7. Free-Will as a Function of Divergence.Ivan D. London - 1948 - Psychological Review 55 (1):41-47.
  8. 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 (...)
  9. 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 (...)
  10. 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 (...)
Free Will and Neuroscience
  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. Neurophilosophy of Free Will: From Libertarian Illusions to a Concept of Natural Autonomy by Henrik Walter.Kristin Andrews - 2003 - Philo 6 (1):166-175.
  7. Neurophilosophy of Free Will by Henrik Walter.Kristin Andrews - 2003 - Philo 6 (1):166-175.
  8. Walter's Neurophilosophy of Free Will: A Review.Kristin Andrews - 2003 - Philo 6:166.
  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 - 2009 - Bradford.
    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 scientific question about the causal histories of certain kinds of neural events. In the course of his argument, Balaguer provides a naturalistic defense of the libertarian view of free will. The metaphysical component of the problem of free will, Balaguer argues, essentially boils down to the question of whether humans possess libertarian free will. Furthermore, he (...)
  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 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. Neurobiology and Free Will: A Dialogue Between Mariano Artigas and John Eccles.Javier Bernácer - 2016 - Scientia et Fides 4 (2):437-445.
    In this article, I discuss the importance of multidisciplinary research to tackle the questions that empirical sciences, and in particular neuroscience, ultimately encounter. The last decades have witnessed an enormous progress in brain research, mainly because of the improvement of neuroimaging techniques and neurogenetics, and the development of optogenetics. Furthermore, the US Government and European Union have launched the BRAIN Initiative and Human Brain Project, respectively, to promote a better understanding of brain functioning and its disorders. Unfortunately, their gates appear (...)
  26. Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language, and Political Power. By John R. Searle.Dennis Bielfeldt - 2009 - Zygon 44 (4):999-1002.
  27. 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?”.
  28. Consciousness And Freedom: Three Views.Pratima Bowes - 1971 - Methuen.
  29. 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 (...)
  30. 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 (...)
  31. 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 (...)
  32. 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 (...)
  33. 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 (...)
  34. 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.
  35. Review of Mark Balaguer, Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem[REVIEW]Joseph Keim Campbell - 2010 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (5).
  36. 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.
  37. Free Will, Self-Governance and Neuroscience: An Overview.Alisa Carse, Hilary Bok & Debra J. H. Mathews - 2018 - Neuroethics 11 (3):237-244.
    Given dramatic increases in recent decades in the pace of scientific discovery and understanding of the functional organization of the brain, it is increasingly clear that engagement with the neuroscientific literature and research is central to making progress on philosophical questions regarding the nature and scope of human freedom and responsibility. While patterns of brain activity cannot provide the whole story, developing a deeper and more precise understanding of how brain activity is related to human choice and conduct is crucial (...)
  38. 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.
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