Conscious Will and Responsibility: A Tribute to Benjamin Libet

Front Cover
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Lynn Nadel
Oxford University Press, Nov 24, 2010 - Psychology - 288 pages
0 Reviews
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.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


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

9 Forward Modeling Mediates Motor Awareness
10 Volition and the Function of Consciousness
11 Neuroscience Free Will and Responsibility
Author Index
Subject Index

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

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.

Bibliographic information