Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?
The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless. 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. Many neuroscientists are employing a flawed notion of free will. Such proclamations make the news; after all, if free will is dead, then moral and legal responsibility may be close behind. Indeed, free will matters in part because it is a precondition for deserving blame for bad acts and deserving credit for achievements. Here, I’ll explain why neuroscience is not the death of free will and does not “wreak havoc on our sense of moral and legal responsibility,” extending a discussion begun in Gary Gutting’s recent Stone column. Leif Parsons
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