Free will, the self and the brain

Behavioral Sciences and the Law 2 (25):221-234 (2007)
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The free will problem is defined and three solutions are discussed: no-freedom theory, libertarianism, and compatibilism. Strict determinism is often assumed in arguing for libertarianism or no-freedom theory. It assumes that the history of the universe is fixed, but modern physics admits a certain degree of randomness in the determination of events. However, this is not enough for a compatibilist position—which is favored here—since freedom is not randomness. It is the I that chooses what to do. It is argued that the core of the free will problem is what this I is. A materialist view is favored: The I is an activity of the brain. In addition to absence of external and internal compulsion, freedom involves absence of causal sufficiency of influences acting on the I. A more elaborate compatibilist view is proposed, according to which causal determination is complete when we add events occurring in the I (of which the subject is not conscious). Contrary to what several authors have argued, the onset of the readiness potential before the decision to act is no problem here. The experience of agency is incomplete and fallible, rather than illusory. Some consequences of different views about freedom for the ascription of responsibility are discussed.

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