Article

The Case Against the Case Against Free Will

Abstract

My aim in this paper is to demonstrate that those who believe that they have mounted a decisive, logically and scientifically based case against the existence of a human capability to engage in deliberate action, and thus that there is “no such thing as free will,” have not in fact done so. It is to argue that, certainly at the present historical moment and perhaps in principle, there is no strong reason to distrust our experience in the matter of whether or not we possess the ability to make genuine choices. In the first part of the paper, I state what I have observed to be the standard arguments in favor of causal determinism of human behavior, with an emphasis on the determinist principle itself and on the experimental work of Benjamin Libet and John Dylan-Haynes. In Parts 2 and 3, I present a series of counterarguments that, taken collectively, militate strongly against the soundness of the hard determinist position regarding human behavior and its purported scientific foundation.
FREE WILL
Running head: FREE WILL
The Case Against the Case Against Free Will
Raymond M. Bergner
Department of Psychology
Illinois State University
Normal, IL
Citation: Bergner, R. (2018). The case against the case against free will. Journal of
Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 38, 77-90.
doi:10.1037/teo0000084
© 2018, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record and
may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version of the article. Please do not copy
or cite without authors permission. The final article will be available, upon publication,
via its DOI: 10.1037/teo0000084
Author notes. There has been no prior dissemination of this work. Address
correspondence to: Raymond M. Bergner, Department of Psychology, Illinois State
University Normal, IL 61790-4620. Email: rmbergn@ilstu.edu
1
FREE WILL
The Case Against the Case Against Free Will
Abstract
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Signicance Statement
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2
FREE WILL
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3
FREE WILL
The Case Against the Case Against Free Will
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
-.-
.
-.7-.
-
4
FREE WILL
.>
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.
7-.

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:
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:98
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>%
*
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'8'7;'8<7?'89.
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

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
- '886'8<@)
5
FREE WILL
A&'88.*

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
-;'8'7B
'886.C,
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
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7
FREE WILL
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


 !"-"B2AC3E(7"
3E4.#$%&-)'88E.



The Case Against Free Will
0

B


Argument #1: Determinism is True and Precludes Free Will
*-
.

:-&'8<7"
'897+0;'88.G"
8
FREE WILL
-.L
L-.
)
:-.-.
)
7

:
-&'8<72'88'.
G
C
G
!*%%

:-%
.
-&'8'7B'88672'88'.
=
BB
-'886E.-M @*

C
-.
9
FREE WILL

7-.

N$'88(7M'8O
&:

N&'8'7*33O.
D


-&'8'72'88'7"E'8F34.
-;@
!
,
.
Argument #2: Science Requires Adherence to Determinism
CP*
,
-&'888<<.&-339.
)

10
FREE WILL

-6E.&
2I
-%,
.C


-&'8'7
&33972'88'.*

*
:



Argument #3: Research Has Shown Free Will To Be An Illusion.
%3E8
!"-.

-.
*
-DC.
"0
11
FREE WILL
DC8(8
!0
+



B,

&
"

0-"B2AC
3E(7"3E4.
),"0

>&

"-) &KA&'88E.
D
>
*


12
FREE WILL
D
 Q8- G8.
0
-)'88E.*




%

-;'8'7
&'8872'88'.+
@

-2'88'7
&E96.
II. Problems With the Determinist Thesis Itself
Not an Inductively-Based Law
*
:
-&'8<7"'897+0;
'88.2I;
I&
13
FREE WILL
-339.
:
K-.
0
0GP
R
-&3396E.)
34S
G

<0
-6E.
=&-339.
,
-C343.
,
I)

*
P7
R;


14
FREE WILL
Unmet Assertability Conditions
2 #

=

,*

K-):'8<.G
%%
B
-B'886E.%%
,@
;-:;;.
T%%;
T*;T

;T
Quantum physics. 

,,
- '867 3(67&34E7)A=
'84.G,
,U-
15
FREE WILL
7.
V-,7
.
-)A='84.*

-M @*

,N 
3(6O.
G,

,

Psychological science=
48
:,

;-:;;.
:T%%;
T*

-,
>.2
16
FREE WILL
:U
:V
)


>


,

An Unacceptable Rationalism.
*

$
%%
%%
2
-H9EF34E.

%%
20/01-34(566.
A Methodological Prescription.
17
FREE WILL

IC

-.
- '88<7&3397+3E'8(.
*
%:


@
2
%:,
%
:-+3E'8(7 
'88<.
Lack Of Explanation Not A Valid Argument Against Choice
=!

!0
-B'886E7;'8<7;'8'7&
'8'.2:

-H9EF34E.7
18
FREE WILL
%%%%
:-.
-;'8'7B'88672'88'.*


&
-G3497+'8(7
*3<<.*
!
:
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G-!
:.
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,
-
0.
G

19
FREE WILL
-;'8'7
;'887?'89.


200U
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!%%
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2

-$'88(.2

%%-"
3E(.
-;'887B'886.

:-,.

-,
.
-.

20
FREE WILL
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-+0;'888.
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2%%
%%&
,


Interpreting the Libet-type Experiments
G"
-
>0.
-DC 8.
0-"
3E(7"3E47)'88E.)"0



-;'8'7&'8'72
'88'.
-;'8'7&'8'7
2'88'.+!-H'887
21
FREE WILL
'867M'8'86.=
,"



A Generalizability Issue.
*%
@
-.=
0
7-'.
0
7-(.%0
*
7

K-'.
-(.:>
0
-$'88(7'867M'86
'86.G


22
FREE WILL
 2
)
-

.+
-!


N A'88E7
$!'8867BKWK%?!" KKA
"'88E7H'88O.
' 2,
,
-
.
( 2
-

.
6 2-
K
UVX%
:.
23
FREE WILL
4 2
-

.
< 2
-

.
92-

.
E2-

K

K

.
32
-


24
FREE WILL
);
.
82

-

>

7 '867H33<
.
*K,@
,

K
-$'88(7
'867M'86.I;
>0
K
-.
-53.7-.
-
54.7-.
-
25
FREE WILL
.-5(.7-.-59.7
-.:
-58.I-M @

.
=
K,%
"

K
=K
:




Neglect of Counterfactual Conditional Causality
"%-
K"%
.
:*
:;:T
-'
26
FREE WILL
.;T
;T"
-DC G8.
=

%%
-;'8'7&'8'72'88'.
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2-5(.
#
)#
,$4#
,2"%-.
%
-'.
:
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"%-'867M'86.
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##
!)
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:

No Behavior Explainable in Terms of Brain Activity Alone
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##
-
DC.IG2,P2
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28
FREE WILL
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:!-
54
7T
.)I
IG
I
 -'8<.-
0#$40.
::
-.-
.:22HH
H%&H%&CC
-+'8(.-;@*:
00
:&
 ).
:
:
-:.&7
G
29
FREE WILL

+-'8(. -'8<.
Objection 1: Ad hoc?!

&
7
@
H-H.

#

-

%Y%0.
'2-2.#



:-
.
(H%&-H%&.
#
30
FREE WILL


-

!
.
6C-C.
#


-

.
=


Objection 2: Parameters do not designate anything real.
T


*


31
FREE WILL
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>

&U
PR-20
*/*
N3''58O.T
U


PR
-.-
!.

- '8<.G
!
:@

",
#
2

32
FREE WILL
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:
=



@)
%#
0*
:
:,



G
!!
Objection 3: Lack of freestandingness.*!






33
FREE WILL
G
KFK
=KK

:G
,

*

&
%%!
%%&

%%

:7
=%
-C.%
7
:*,
%
,*

34
FREE WILL

:
Objection 4: Parameters reducible to biological states.
=!
:
&,!
-
.
-.-B'8867TM3<7
*M'8'.*
&'8!

-K:,
K
.
&'+*
2
-.JU
U#
-.#
:
K
=
35
FREE WILL

#
$4
G!

,"%
*
-.
,
- '8867'8<7*M'8'.
It takes a person.


*0



-5.


=

36
FREE WILL
*

-
.*
!%%
%%
:,
2:I2
,
I*@%%

-)3437 '897&'8897
+'8(.%%,
-.
::
-%
;3E'7H9EF34E.7+0;'8887
*3<<.
Many Decisions and Behaviors are Unconscious; So What?


Q
!;
37
FREE WILL
- A'88E7B
'8897H'88.
*%%
%%
G



-
.=
PR

C
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R
,

- A'88E7
B'889.
Some A Is B…Therefore, All A Is B?
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"%

*


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40
FREE WILL
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$
"""""
- '867H33<.*
::T
:0


7*
)G 7G 
T

:
(

Further Comments Regarding Haynes' Research
G&
'88E
 Q8
0
-)
'88E.)=
48S
41
FREE WILL
<8S-)'88E7 
'867'867M'86'86.2
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
<8S
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UV

U0
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*
&0%

42
FREE WILL
-
.

M
-'8493.
Does “Free Won’t” Exist?
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
+
0-"
3E(7"3E4.*,
:K
-'86.
D&
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'84.
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L-theory Determinism Negates Itself and Possibility of
Scientic Knowledge
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2

#

45
FREE WILL
*"%

!
00-
.0!*

&#
-F
.*"%

!L

Conclusion
*

,

-;'8<7;'8'7&'8'.
K
T+2QP-.
-.R-3334(.
*
G
46
FREE WILL

0
- '88E7 
A$2'8837 AD'8(7?A
)'88E.G-'88.


%=

!
,

=
%%
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References
GK-'88.()*
+JH@
+JC
GT-349.$;G@&J
C
G-398.+,-./+@;C
-'86.0";G@*C
#AT-'88E.*+
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D-'88E.=+
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+1+,23'<8L
'<E @FFF899F86<<9'8E('9'9
D-'886.I45
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D-'88<.GM
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+-?E
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48
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D-'8<.2PIRG
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+286%44
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2999%38
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%41+-32%'
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;JH@
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... Psychologists and philosophers have cautioned against making claims that free will does not exist with seemingly scientific grounds, as disbelief in free will could induce a sense of fatalism insinuating that people lack the power to control their lives, and encourage immoral behaviour that is detrimental to not only the individual but also the wider society Bergner, 2018;Dennett, 2008;Mele, 2014;Nahmias, 2011;Shariff et al., 2008). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
The existence of free will has been a subject of fierce academic debate for millennia, still the meaning of the term “free will” remains nebulous. In the past two decades, psychologists have made considerable progress in defining lay concepts of free will. We present the first systematic review of primary psychological evidence on how ordinary folk conceptualise free will, encompassing folk concepts, beliefs, intuitions, and attitudes about free will. A total of 1,384 records were identified following a pre-registered protocol. After abstract and full-text screening, 18 articles were eligible for inclusion, comprised of 36 studies and 10,176 participants from regions including the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Turkey, and Germany. A narrative synthesis of results showed that for ordinary folk, especially the more educated population from the United States, free will is a dynamic construct centred on the ability to choose following one’s goals and desires, whilst being uncoerced and reasonably free from constraints. Results suggesting metaphysical considerations regarding consciousness, dualism, and determinism were inconclusive. Our findings provided preliminary support for a psychological model of folk conception of free will, and elucidated potential pathways mediating the effects of consciousness and dualism on free will attributions. Further research is needed to explicate the distinction between having free will and having the ability to exercise free will, as well as the cross-cultural validity of findings on folk conceptions of free will.
... If humans are indeed, as philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1943/1972) asserted, "not free to cease being free" (p.439), then whether the folk believe in free will or not, and whether people act as though they have free will or not is of profound importance. Psychologists and philosophers have cautioned against making claims that free will does not exist with seemingly scientific grounds, as disbelief in free will could induce a sense of fatalism insinuating that people lack the power to control their lives, and encourage immoral behaviour that is detrimental to not only the individual but also the wider society (Baumeister et al., 2011;Bergner, 2018;Dennett, 2008;Mele, 2014;Nahmias, 2011;Shariff et al., 2008). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
The existence of free will has been a subject of fierce academic debate for millennia, still the meaning of the term “free will” remains nebulous. In the past two decades, psychologists have made considerable progress in defining folk concepts of free will. However, this growing body of literature has yet to be reviewed systematically. This systematic review aimed to narratively synthesise primary psychological evidence on folk conceptions of free will, encompassing folk concepts, beliefs, intuitions, and attitudes about free will, to provide a definition grounded in laypeople’s perspective to guide future research. Database searches were conducted following a pre-registered search strategy. A total of 1,368 records were identified through database searching, and 16 additional records were identified through reference mining, author tracing, and contacting authors for unpublished manuscripts. After duplicate removal, ASReview, an open-source machine learning programme, was used to facilitate and optimise abstract screening. Finally, 57 full-text articles were assessed for eligibility, and 18 articles were eligible for inclusion, comprised of 36 studies and 10,176 participants from regions including the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Turkey, and Germany. The results showed that for ordinary folk, especially the more educated population from the United States, free will is a dynamic construct centred on the ability to choose following one’s goals and desires, whilst being uncoerced and reasonably free from constraints. Results suggesting metaphysical considerations regarding consciousness, dualism, and determinism were inconclusive. The findings provided preliminary support for a psychological model of folk conception of free will. All data and coding are openly shared.
... James, 1890James, /1952cf. Baer, Kaufman, & Baumeister, 2008;Bergner, 2018). He then refers the reader to a more philosophically oriented article published a half dozen years earlier on "The Dilemma of Determinism" (W. ...
Article
Near the onset of his illustrious career, the psychologist William James proposed a theory of how individual genius can exert a unique and enduring causal impact on the history of civilization. After first attacking the prevailing view that sociocultural determinism rendered individual creators and leaders mere epiphenomena, James argued that the causal effect of the genius paralleled that of the spontaneous variation or mutation in the theory of evolution by natural selection. Although his specific arguments suffer severe problems even from the standpoint of his own theory, current psychological research on creativity and genius indicate how his basic thesis can be revised and updated with respect to creative genius. This revision and updating concentrates specifically on what is known about the behavioral productivity, thinking processes and procedures, personality characteristics, and early developmental experiences in highly creative individuals. These modern enhancements then lead to the integrated discussion of Jamesian free will and the causal agency of the creative genius. The net result is a revitalized theory of how it even becomes possible for single individuals to make creative choices that not only may cause changes in their own lives, but also alter the course of world history.
Chapter
Intersubjective space occurs between two or more members of a community. When those members jointly engage a shared project second-person engagement is joined. The purpose of this study is to present an account of intersubjective space as second-person perspective. A joint engagement of a project by members of a community, that could be a simple conversation, gives rise to a unitary we-relation that is a second-person engagement. The structure of second-person encounter is described by four properties of an interdefinable circle that consists of the authority to confront an other person of one’s community with a claim of a transgression which becomes a practical reason for the person confronted to direct their conduct for which she is unconditionally responsible. Direct first-person experience of a we-relation is the empathic connection of a unitary property of a second-person engagement while reactive attitudes are the emotional context of moral conduct. Second-person engagement is inherently moral that derives from the properties of the interdefinable circle and the social infrastructure of the community an engagement is embedded. Moral autonomy derives from the imperative nature of the principles derived from a social infrastructure. Such a principle can be recognized as a categorical imperative. Conduct is moral and responsible only if autonomous.
Chapter
The last two chapters of the first part of the book on lateralization development and its causation explore further the range of the author’s models on the question. First, it considers in depth once more the concept of activation-inhibition coordination, but less from a developmental point of view and more in terms of adult research and models based on that research. It begins with some developmental research and focuses on research on inhibition. The adult research also examines the inhibitory function in the left and right hemispheres . For example, the research shows that simpler inhibitory activities are localized in the right hemisphere, which is consistent with Young’s hypothesis that the left hemisphere is specialized for more complex inhibitory skills , that is, in terms of activation-inhibition coordination. The chapter also examines the generalized role of activation-inhibition coordination, that is, independent of laterality/lateralization, in orchestrating both behavior and brain function . For example, it examines research on neuronal activity fitting an excitation-inhibition dynamic. Also, it examines research on difficulties in inhibition found in certain disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The chapter continues by exploring other models in relation to laterality, especially network ones. It then turns to my own work on networked causality and different hierarchical levels in systems, illustrating how such modeling might help in laterality conceptualization, for example, by complementing the activation-inhibition coordination model. The chapter terminates by examining more closely the biopsychosocial model and how it might relate to lateralization.
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