Books by Brights
Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will
In recent decades, with advances in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, the idea that patterns of human behavior may ultimately be due to factors beyond our conscious control has increasingly gained traction and renewed interest in the age-old problem of free will. In this book I examine both the traditional philosophical problems long associated with the question of free will, such as the relationship between determinism and free will, as well as recent experimental and theoretical work directly related to consciousness and human agency. I argue that our best scientific theories indeed have the consequence that factors beyond our control produce all of the actions we perform and that because of this we do not possess the kind of free will required for genuine or ultimate responsibility. I further argue that the strong and pervasive belief in free will, which I consider an illusion, can be accounted for through a careful analysis of our phenomenology and a proper theoretical understanding of consciousness. Indeed, the primary goal of this book is to argue that our subjective feeling of freedom, as reflected in the first-person phenomenology of agentive experience, is an illusion created by certain aspects of our consciousness. So after working to establish that free will is an illusion in the early chapters, I then proceed to give a novel account of just how that illusion is created in the later chapters. I present my illusionist account using one leading theory of consciousness—the higher-order thought (or HOT) theory of consciousness. I maintain that by combining the theoretical framework of the HOT theory with empirical findings in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, we can come to see that the illusion of free will is created by the particular way our higher-order thoughts make us conscious of our mental states and how our sense of self is constructed within consciousness.
About the Author
Dr. Gregg Caruso is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Humanities Department at Corning Community College, SUNY, and Brights member.