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Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Proposal for a Scientifically-Informed and Instrumentalist Account of Free Will and Voluntary Action

Eric Racine
Frontiers in Psychology, 17 May 2017

Here is an excerpt:

From the perspective of applied ethics and social behavior, voluntariness is a key dimension in the understanding of autonomous decisions and actions as well as our responsibility toward and ownership of these decisions and actions (Dworkin, 1988; Wegner, 2002). Autonomous decisions and actions imply that the agent is initiating them according to his or her own wishes and that the person is free to do so (i.e., not under direct or indirect forms of coercion that would imperil the existence of such an ability). Accordingly, in applied ethics, voluntariness commonly refers to “the degree that [the moral agent] wills the action without being under the control of another's influence” (Beauchamp and Childress, 2001). Indeed, if moral agents have a jeopardized ability, or even lack the ability to initiate actions freely, then neither can they be faulted for their own actions (responsibility) nor encouraged to undertake actions on the premise of their expression of their own preferences (autonomy; Felsen and Reiner, 2011; Castelo et al., 2012). The concept of FW commonly captures a basic form of agency and a responsibility associated with this ability to self-control and initiate voluntary action (Roskies, 2006; Brass et al., 2013). Accordingly, in this paper, FW designates primarily a basic ability to envision options and choose between them such that the will or volition of the person is considered to be free.

The article is here.

Editor's note: The concept of free will is a main concern in psychotherapy.  How autonomous is your patient's behavior?