Publicaciones > Freeing free will: A neuroscientific perspective

Freeing free will: A neuroscientific perspective

Ibanez A, Hesse E, Manes F, Garcia AM. Freeing free will: A neuroscientific perspective. 2017. In Mario Bunge (Ed): Doing Science, Publisher: World Scientific, pp.161-176. DOI: 10.1142/9789813202788_0012.

Free will (FW) was originally conceived as a dualistic and Neoplatonic notion, and these foundational properties pervade current views rooted in cognitive neuroscience. In an attempt to foster progress beyond those traditional tenets, here we propose an unorthodox neurocognitive approach to the construct. First, we explicitly assess three traditional assumptions that should be avoided for FW to be fruitfully explored, namely, that FW is (a) categorical in ontological terms (an all-or-nothing capacity); (b) intrinsically dependent on consciousness; and (c) rooted in deterministic or non-deterministic principles. We analyze prototypical neuroscientific claims suggesting that FW is illusory and show that these considerations rely on the three classical assumptions listed above. The boundaries and dualistic foundations of classical accounts of FW can be considered misleading, or at least non-scientifically motivated. Conversely, a renewed neurocognitive conception of FW can rest upon the following principles: (a) like several other cognitive and affective domains, FW is not an all-or-nothing faculty; (b) conscious activity underlying FW is a non-contradictory, emergent property of unconscious mechanisms; and (c) processes rooted in both determination and self-determination coexist in the neurocognitive underpinnings of FW. These reconsiderations pave the way for a new research agenda, in which FW constitutes the capacity to make flexible decisions (only some of which involve moral responsibility) and reason about ensuing consequences on the self and the environment. To conclude, we update the incipient knowledge regarding brain networks relevant to FW, and call for future research to frame it as a natural, neurocognitive, and situated phenomenon.

Keywords: Free will, cognitive neuroscience, neurocognitivization