The Two-Stage Solution to the Problem of Free Will

In Antoine Suarez Peter Adams (ed.), Is Science Compatible with Free Will? New York, NY, USA: Springer. pp. 235-254 (2013)
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Random noise in the neurobiology of animals allows for the generation of alternative possibilities for action. In lower animals, this shows up as behavioral freedom. Animals are not causally predetermined by prior events going back in a causal chain to the origin of the universe. In higher animals, randomness can be consciously invoked to generate surprising new behaviors. In humans, creative new ideas can be critically evaluated and deliberated. On reflection, options can be rejected and sent back for “second thoughts” before a final responsible decision and action. When the indeterminism is limited to the early stage of a mental decision, the later decision itself can be described as adequately determined. This is called the two-stage model, first the “free” generation of ideas, then an adequately determinism evaluation and selection process we call “will.”

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Bob Doyle
Harvard University


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