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Free Will and Modern Science$
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Richard Swinburne

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264898

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264898.001.0001

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Libet and the case for free will scepticism1

Libet and the case for free will scepticism1

(p.25) 2 Libet and the case for free will scepticism1
Free Will and Modern Science


British Academy

This chapter examines what is arguably the most influential rebutting objection in the current literature, an objection that appeals to Benjamin Libet's studies concerning the neural basis of agency. Although Libet himself stopped short of endorsing free will scepticism on the basis of his results, other theorists have not been so cautious, and his work is often said to show that we lack free will. It is argued that Libet's findings show no such thing. However, Libet's experiments do raise a number of interesting and important questions for accounts of free will. In particular, Libet's experiments raise challenging questions about the analysis of the concept of free will. In order to determine whether brain science supports free will scepticism we need not only to understand the relevant brain science, we also need to understand just what the common-sense or folk notion of free will commits us to. The latter requirement may be as difficult to meet as the former one is.

Keywords:   Benjamin Libet, agency, free will, brain science, common sense

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