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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Neuroscientific Prediction and Free Will: What do ordinary people think?

By Gregg D. Caruso
Psychology Today Blog
Originally published October 26, 2015

Some theorists have argued that our knowledge of the brain will one day advance to the point where the perfect neuroscientific prediction of all human choices is theoretically possible. Whether or not such prediction ever becomes a reality, this possibility raises an interesting philosophical question: Would such perfect neuroscientific prediction be compatible with the existence of free will? Philosophers have long debated such questions. The historical debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists, for example, has centered on whether determinism and free will can be reconciled. Determinism is the thesis that every event or action, including human action, is the inevitable result of preceding events and actions and the laws of nature. The question of perfect neuro-prediction is just a more recent expression of this much older debate. While philosophers have their arguments for the compatibility or incompatibility of free will and determinism (or perfect neuroscientific prediction), they also often claim that their intuitions are in general agreement with commonsense judgments. To know whether this is true, however, we first need to know what ordinary folk think about these matters. Fortunately, recent research in psychology and experimental philosophy has begun to shed some light on this.

The entire article is here.