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Moral Psychology

Free Will and Moral Responsibility

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Publication Year: 2014

Traditional philosophers approached the issues of free will and moral responsibility through conceptual analysis that seldom incorporated findings from empirical science. In recent decades, however, striking developments in psychology and neuroscience have captured the attention of many moral philosophers. This volume of <I>Moral Psychology</I> offers essays, commentaries, and replies by leading philosophers and scientists who explain and use empirical findings from psychology and neuroscience to illuminate old and new problems regarding free will and moral responsibility. The contributors -- who include such prominent scholars as Patricia Churchland, Daniel Dennett, and Michael Gazzaniga -- consider issues raised by determinism, compatibilism, and libertarianism; epiphenomenalism, bypassing, and naturalism; naturalism; and rationality and situationism. These writings show that although science does not settle the issues of free will and moral responsibility, it has enlivened the field by asking novel, profound, and important questions.<B>Contributors</B>Roy F. Baumeister, Tim Bayne, Gunnar Björnsson, C. Daryl Cameron, Hanah A. Chapman, William A. Cunningham, Patricia S. Churchland, Christopher G. Coutlee, Daniel C. Dennett, Ellen E. Furlong, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Patrick Haggard, Brian Hare, Lasana T. Harris, John-Dylan Haynes, Richard Holton, Scott A. Huettel, Robert Kane, Victoria K. Lee, Neil Levy, Alfred R. Mele, Christian Miller, Erman Misirlisoy, P. Read Montague, Thomas Nadelhoffer, Eddy Nahmias, William T. Newsome, B. Keith Payne, Derk Pereboom, Adina L. Roskies, Laurie R. Santos, Timothy Schroeder, Michael N. Shadlen, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chandra Sripada, Christopher L. Suhler, Manuel Vargas, Gideon Yaffe

Published by: The MIT Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

For financial support of the conference that led to this volume, I am grateful to several institutions at Duke University, including the Duke Institute for Brain Science, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Science, the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and...

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pp. xiii-xviii

Volumes 1 through 3 of this series viewed moral judgments from the perspectives of evolutionary biology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and, of course, philosophy. Those volumes focused on moral judgments about which acts are morally right or wrong, good or bad. Another kind of moral...

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1: Is Free Will an Illusion? Confronting Challenges from the Modern Mind Sciences

Eddy Nahmias

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pp. 1-26

Questions about free will and responsibility have long been considered the purview of philosophers. If philosophers paid attention to any science, it was physics since physics might tell us about whether or not the traditional threat of determinism is true. This is changing, though too slowly. Philosophers...

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1.1: Free Will Skepticism and Bypassing

Gunnar Björnsson and Derk Pereboom

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pp. 27-36

Two routes to the claim that free will is an illusion — free will skepticism — feature prominently in the current discussion. A first, which denies the causal efficacy of the types of willing required for free will, receives its contemporary impetus from certain kinds of studies in neuroscience, pioneered...

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1.2: A Neuroscientific Account of the Human Will

Erman Misirlisoy and Patrick Haggard

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pp. 37-42

The concept of free will is heavily loaded with philosophical, ethical, and political implications. We take the scientific viewpoint of the detached observer, attempting a natural history of will. First, we can ask what is referred to as the human "will” and how does it work? From this evidence...

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1.3: Response to Misirlisoy and Haggard and to Bjornsson and Pereboom

Eddy Nahmias

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pp. 43-58

The responses by Erman Misirlisoy and Patrick Haggard (M & H) and Gunnar Björnsson and Derk Pereboom (B & P) provide very useful ways to highlight the issues I raise in my chapter and the disagreements between competing positions in debates about free will. I thank the four of them for providing...

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2: Mental Life and Responsibility in Real Time with a Determined Brain

Michael S. Gazzaniga

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pp. 59-74

Each of us feels as if we have a story line for our lives. That narrative suggests to us that we are agents acting of our own free will and can make our very own choices, whether those choices are good or bad, right or wrong. The impression that the narrative — a psychological center, a...

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2.1: Seduced by Tradition

Daniel C. Dennett

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pp. 75-80

Gazzaniga’s essay provides a useful elementary overview of the ways in which physics has moved away from Laplace’s vision of determinism and how the sciences in general have moved to a more nuanced appreciation of the relationships between multiple explanatory levels — subatomic...

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2.2: Neuroscience, Explanation, and the Problem of Free Will

William T. Newsome

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pp. 81-96

Michael Gazzaniga, a leading brain scientist who essentially invented the modern field of cognitive neuroscience, tackles perennial (and increasingly urgent) issues of free will and moral responsibility and how modern neuroscience influences our conceptions of both. Gazzaniga states that his...

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2.3: Response

Michael S. Gazzaniga

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pp. 97-102

If I could write with the same clarity and verve as Daniel Dennett and William Newsome, I would have said most of what they said the way they said it! While we disagree on where the locus of responsibility is to be understood, we agree on so much of the nature of the problem. Getting...

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3. Can Neuroscience Resolve Issues about Free Will?

Adina L. Roskies

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pp. 103-126

In recent years, the philosophy of free will has reemerged as a vibrant research area. In part, the renewed interest in the perennial philosophical question can be attributed to advances in neuroscience and their supposed relevance to philosophical questions about freedom. For example, Benjamin...

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3.1: Free Will, Mechanism, and Determinism: Comments on Roskles, "Can Neuroscience Resolve Issues about Free Will?”

Robert Kane

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pp. 127-138

Adina Roskies is surely right that philosophical debates about free will have taken on an increased vibrancy in the past few decades, in large part because of new research in the neurosciences and its supposed relevancy to traditional debates about free will. She also notes that there have been...

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3.2: Comments on Adina Roskles, “Can Neuroscience Resolve Issues about Free Will?”

Michael N. Shadlen

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pp. 139-150

In “Can Neuroscience Resolve Issues about Free Will?” Adina Roskies knits together traditional and modern philosophical ideas with emerging concepts arising from the neuroscience of decision making. It is an elegant and nuanced synthesis. Roskies feels the neurobiology of decision making...

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3.3: Response to Commentators

Adina L. Roskies

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pp. 151-156

I would like to thank my commentators for their generally supportive and astute comments. In this response I would like to clarify the differences that I perceive between my position and theirs. We have little to no disagreement about the neural processes that underlie decision, but regarding...

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4: The Neural Code for Intentions in the Human Brain

John-Dylan Haynes

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pp. 157-176

In order to understand how intentions are encoded in the human brain, one should first consider the general principles for identifying neural representations of any kind of mental state. One of the key assumptions of modern neuroscience is that every mental state is realized by brain activity...

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4.1: Neural Decoding and Human Freedom

Tim Bayne

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pp. 177-182

The Greek god Momus is said to have expressed dissatisfaction with human beings because our state of mind cannot be readily discerned. It would have been better, Momus thought, if we were born with a window into our breast so that our mental states could be easily recognized. Developments...

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4.2: Short-Term and Long-Term Intentions in Psychological Theory, Neurotechnology, and Free Will

Timothy Schroeder

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pp. 183-190

The philosophical study of intentions has been intense since the mid-twentieth century, following work by Elizabeth Anscombe and Donald Davidson (see Anscombe, 1957, and Davidson, 1980 , essays 1, 2, and 5). This philosophical work has brought a good deal of insight into the nature...

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4.3: Reply to Schroeder and Bayne

John-Dylan Haynes

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pp. 191-194

In their comments on my target article, Timothy Schroeder and Tim Bayne raise so many interesting points that it would take a whole book to address them in detail. Many of the comments are well-taken and reflect the fact that research on the neural basis of intentions is still in its infancy, especially...

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5. Free Will and Substance Dualism

Alfred R. Mele

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pp. 195-208

In Effective Intentions (Mele, 2009), I assessed some much-discussed scientific arguments for the thesis that free will does not exist. The general structure of the arguments at issue is simple. In stage 1, data are offered in support of some featured empirical proposition or other — for example, the...

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5.1: Dualism, Libertarianism, and Scientific Skepticism about Free Will

Thomas Nadelhoffer

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pp. 209-216

Perhaps you’ve chosen to read this essay after scanning other articles on this website. Or, if you’re in a hotel, maybe you’ve decided what to order for breakfast, or what clothes you’ll wear today. You haven’t. You may feel like you’ve made choices, but in reality your decision to read this piece, and whether to have eggs or pancakes...

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5.2: Reconsidering Scientific Threats to Free Will

Manuel Vargas

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pp. 217-226

In “Free Will and Substance Dualism: The Real Scientific Threat to Free Will?” Al Mele extends his groundbreaking work on scientific arguments against free will.1 He replies to charges that he has missed the real threat to free will posed by experimental work, focusing on two issues: (1) the...

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5.3: Reply to Nadelhoffer and Vargas

Alfred R. Mele

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pp. 227-234

I am grateful to Thomas Nadelhoffer and Manuel Vargas for their thoughtful reactions to my chapter. Nadelhoffer reports on a new study that bears on one of the central questions in my chapter — whether, as the majority of nonspecialists conceive of free will, having free will depends on having...

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6: Constructing a Scientific Theory of Free Will

Roy F. Baumeister

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pp. 235-256

Do people have free will? The question has attracted considerable debate over the centuries and continues to excite interest, not least because its implications spread across many fields of study (philosophy, psychology, neuroscience) as well as having profound implications for daily life (moral...

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6.1: Hold Off on the Definitions: Comments on Baumeister

Richard Holton

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pp. 257-264

Roy Baumeister’s paper bristles with ideas. Rather than plunging into the details, let me survey the landscape. The paper has two parts. The first, much shorter, reacts to some skeptical philosophical arguments that seek to question the existence of free will. With these out of the way, the second...

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6.2: Free Will Worth Having and the Intentional Control of Behavior

B. Keith Payne and C. Daryl Cameron

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pp. 265-270

In his chapter, Roy Baumeister covers a wide range of considerations to lay the foundation for a scientific account of free will. The chapter is thought provoking and contains much with which we agree. Like Baumeister, we believe that free will can be understood as a psychological phenomenon...

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6.3: Grateful Responses to Thoughtful Comments by Holton, Payne, and Cameron

Roy F. Baumeister

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pp. 271-278

The question of human free will has become a flashpoint for emotional controversy in the sciences and the general public society. Much is seemingly at stake, including even the question of whether people should be held morally and legally responsible for their misdeeds. I am honored and delighted to receive such thoughtful, enlightening...

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7: The Freedom to Choose and Drug Addiction

P. Read Montague

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pp. 279-286

Like Groucho Marx, most humans have opinions about their choices — strong opinions in many cases. This claim can be tested by simply asking anyone you encounter why they made some life choice (choice of mate, choice of job, place to live, etc.), and invariably there will be a response...

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7.1 Dopamine Dysfunction and Addict Responsibility

Gideon Yaffe

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pp. 287-294

The path-breaking work of Peter Dayan and Read Montague, and others, on the role of the dopamine signal in valuation and decision making is of the first importance. Of particular importance is the work that has been done in properly characterizing dopamine’s role in functional terms, rather...

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7.2: The Second Hit in Addiction

Chandra Sripada

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pp. 295-304

To make sense of drug addiction, we must postulate at least two pathologies. The first is in the realm of brute desire. Humans want various things. We want food and sex, as well as such things as chocolate and video games. In addiction, the desire for drugs is excessive in strength and is likely excessive...

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7.3: Responses to Yaffe and Sripada

P. Read Montague

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pp. 305-308

Sripada and Yaffe highlight a number of important features of drug addiction where our ignorance of the underlying computational issues and their neurobiological underpinnings hamstrings our ability to understand exactly how to think about desire and cognitive control. It goes without...

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8: Agency and Control

Patricia S. Churchland and Christopher L. Suhler

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pp. 309-326

If nonconscious brain processes contribute to decision making, what difference, if any, should that make to our traditional conception of what it is to be in control and to be a responsible agent? This is the question that motivates our exploration below. First, a preliminary clarification. “Free will” is an expression festooned with semantic bear traps. We...

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8.1: Rules, Rewards, and Responsibility

Christopher G. Coutlee and Scott A. Huettel

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pp. 327-334

Assigning responsibility to an agent would seem to be a relatively simple problem: Does the agent control the selection of potential alternative courses of action? These considerations are complicated, however, by the recognition that in humans and some other animals, there exist multiple...

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8.2: Consciousness Matters

Neil Levy

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pp. 335-340

Like a number of other thinkers (Arpaly, 2002; Smith, 2005; Sher, 2009; King & Carruthers, 2012), Churchland and Suhler are convinced that the pervasiveness of nonconscious processes in ordinary thought and behavior entails that self-control cannot depend on consciousness. Given that consciousness...

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8.3: Responses

Patricia S. Churchland and Christopher L. Suhler

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pp. 341-346

Drawing on a hypothesis that distinguishes between types of learning according to whether the learning is model-free or model-based, Coutlee and Huettel propose that the model-free learning involves habits and automatic behavior whereas the model-based learning is associated with conscious...

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9: Evolutionary Insights into the Nature of Choice

Ellen E. Furlong and Laurie R. Santos

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pp. 347-360

When faced with a decision, say, whether or not to donate money to a charity, we generally feel as if we are free to decide in a way that satisfies our own plans and preferences. If we believe in the mission of the charity, we may choose to support it, but if we have other plans for our money...

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9.1: Is Human Free Will Prisoner to Primate, Ape, and Hominin Preferences and Biases?

Brian Hare

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pp. 361-366

As someone focused on understanding the evolution of human psychology, I do not spend much of my time thinking about free will. It is not that free will is an uninteresting psychological concept, it is just it traditionally has not lent itself to empirical study from an evolutionary perspective. Furlong...

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9.2: Furlong and Santos on Desire and Choice

Christian B. Miller

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pp. 367-374

Ellen Furlong and Laurie Santos helpfully summarize a number of fascinating studies of certain influences on both human and monkey behavior. As someone who works primarily in philosophy, I am not in a position to dispute the details of the studies themselves. However, in this brief commentary...

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9.3: Response to Miller and Hare

Ellen E. Furlong and Laurie R. Santos

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pp. 375-380

Christian Miller and Brian Hare raise some excellent points about our chapter on comparative work and free will. Miller argues that several of our claims overreach our data in some important ways and that we need to be careful in our definitions of some important concepts. On the...

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10: A Social Perspective on Debates about Free Will

Victoria K. Lee and Lasana T. Harris

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pp. 381-396

Academics are people, and as such they engage in evolutionarily preserved behaviors relevant to a social context. One such behavior is group formation, usually around some commonality. For academics, groups can form around common ideas such as whether free will exists or not. These different...

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10.1: Social Groups

Hanah A. Chapman and William A. Cunningham

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pp. 397-402

Human beings form social groups at the drop of a hat and on the thinnest of pretexts, with consequences both good and bad. On the one hand, being part of a group provides a sense of belonging and security (Allport, 1979; Correll & Park, 2005) and promotes cooperation and altruism within the...

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10.2 Social Explanations and the Free Will Problem

Manuel Vargas

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pp. 403-412

There is strikingly little agreement across academic fields about the existence of free will, what experimental results show, and even what the term “free will” means. In Lee and Harris's “A Social Perspective on Debates about Free Will” the authors argue that group identities and their attendant...

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10.3: Extreme Group Membership Frames the Debate

Victoria K. Lee and Lasana T. Harris

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pp. 413-418

After reading the comments by Vargas and by Chapman and Cunningham, we find it is necessary to make some clarifications. The authors of both reviews provide useful insight into issues of free will as they pertain to the fields of philosophy (Vargas) and psychology (Chapman and Cunningham). We find that although the authors admittedly agree with parts of...


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pp. 419-458


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pp. 459-460


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pp. 461-474

E-ISBN-13: 9780262321488
E-ISBN-10: 0262321483
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262525473

Page Count: 496
Publication Year: 2014