Conscious Will and Responsibility: A Tribute to Benjamin Libet

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Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Lynn Nadel
Oxford University Press, Nov 24, 2010 - Psychology - 288 pages
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We all seem to think that we do the acts we do because we consciously choose to do them. This commonsense view is thrown into dispute by Benjamin Libet's eyebrow-raising experiments, which seem to suggest that conscious will occurs not before but after the start of brain activity that produces physical action. Libet's striking results are often claimed to undermine traditional views of free will and moral responsibility and to have practical implications for criminal justice. His work has also stimulated a flurry of further fascinating scientific research--including findings in psychology by Dan Wegner and in neuroscience by John-Dylan Haynes--that raises novel questions about whether conscious will plays any causal role in action. Critics respond that both commonsense views of action and traditional theories of moral and legal responsibility, as well as free will, can survive the scientific onslaught of Libet and his progeny. To further this lively debate, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Lynn Nadel have brought together prominent experts in neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and law to discuss whether our conscious choices really cause our actions, and what the answers to that question mean for how we view ourselves and how we should treat each other.
 

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Contents

1 Do We Have Free Will?
1
2 Why Libets Studies Dont Pose a Threat to Free Will
11
Readiness Potentials Decisions and Awareness
23
4 Are Voluntary Movements Initiated Preconsciously? The Relationships between Readiness Potentials Urges and Decisions
34
5 Do We Really Know What We Are Doing? Implications of Reported Time of Decision for Theories of Volition
47
How Physiology Speaks to the Issue of Responsibility
61
7 What Are Intentions?
70
Longterm Prediction of Free Choices from Neuroimaging Signals
85
12 Bending Time to Ones Will
134
A Potential Neural Mechanism of Will
146
14 The Phenomenology of Agency and the Libet Results
159
15 The Threat of Shrinking Agency and Free Will Disillusionism
173
16 Libet and the Criminal Laws Voluntary Act Requirement
189
17 Criminal and Moral Responsibility and the Libet Experiments
204
18 Libets Challenges to Responsible Agency
207
19 Lessons from Libet
235

9 Forward Modeling Mediates Motor Awareness
97
10 Volition and the Function of Consciousness
109
11 Neuroscience Free Will and Responsibility
124
Author Index
247
Subject Index
255
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About the author (2010)

WALTER SINNOTT-ARMSTRONG is Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and in the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University as well as Co-director of the MacArthur Law and Neuroscience Program. Widely published, his current research focuses on empirical moral psychology, free will and responsibility, and law and neuroscience. LYNN NADEL is Regent's Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at the University of Arizona. Known for his work on the role of the hippocampus in cognitive mapping, and the multiple trace theory of memory, his current research focuses on the cognitive neuroscience of episodic memory and memory reconsolidation.

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