Empirical constraints on the problem of free will

In Susan Pockett, William P. Banks & Shaun Gallagher (eds.), Does Consciousness Cause Behavior? MIT Press. pp. 125-144 (2006)
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With the success of cognitive science's interdisciplinary approach to studying the mind, many theorists have taken up the strategy of appealing to science to address long standing disputes about metaphysics and the mind. In a recent case in point, philosophers and psychologists, including Robert Kane, Daniel C. Dennett, and Daniel M. Wegner, are exploring how science can be brought to bear on the debate about the problem of free will. I attempt to clarify the current debate by considering how empirical research can be useful. I argue that empirical findings don't apply to one basic dimension of the problem, namely the dispute between compatibilism and incompatibilism. However, I show that empirical research can provide constraints in connection with another fundamental dimension, namely the dispute between libertarianism, which claims that indeterminacy is, in certain contexts, sufficient for freedom, and hard determinism and compatibilism, which deny this. I argue that the source of the most powerful constraint is psychological research into the accuracy of introspection

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Peter Ross
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


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