What Is Free Will?

Podcast of the Day

Matthew Sweet is in the pub, discussing a knotty conundrum with an invited audience and a panel of experts. Today it's whether or not we have free will, with philosopher Wayne Martin of the University of Essex and neuroscientist Gemma Calvert, Managing Director of Neurosense.

Listen to The Philosopher's Arms episode on Free Will

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Short Article of the Day

Is free will an illusion? Some leading scientists think so. For instance, in 2002 the psychologist Daniel Wegner wrote, “It seems we are agents. It seems we cause what we do… It is sobering and ultimately accurate to call all this an illusion.” More recently, the neuroscientist Patrick Haggard declared, “We certainly don’t have free will. Not in the sense we think.” And in June, the neuroscientist Sam Harris claimed, “You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. The problem, however, is that this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain.”

Such proclamations make the news; after all, if free will is dead, then moral and legal responsibility may be close behind...

Continue reading Eddy Nahmias's article: Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?

Further Reading

“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. Which sort is the free will sort is what all the fuss is about. (And what a fuss it has been: philosophers have debated this question for over two millennia, and just about every major philosopher has had something to say about it.) Most philosophers suppose that the concept of free will is very closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility. Acting with free will, on such views, is just to satisfy the metaphysical requirement on being responsible for one's action. (Clearly, there will also be epistemic conditions on responsibility as well, such as being aware—or failing that, being culpably unaware—of relevant alternatives to one's action and of the alternatives' moral significance.) But the significance of free will is not exhausted by its connection to moral responsibility. Free will also appears to be a condition on desert for one's accomplishments (why sustained effort and creative work are praiseworthy); on the autonomy and dignity of persons; and on the value we accord to love and friendship....

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Free Will by Timothy O'Connor

Bonus Webcomic

A Dialogue on Compatibilism - Existential Comics

Related Topics

If you’re interested in free will, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

Laws of Nature | Moral Responsibility | Metaphysics | The Self

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