Synoptic views of the problem of free will

The question of free will becomes a problem for modern philosophy after the epochal shift in worldview brought about by natural science’s “mechanization” of nature. If the entirety of nature could be explicable in terms of invariant physical laws, then what room, if any, was left in this picture of the universe for an account of free will?

The philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, in his article entitled “Free Will Roundtable,” provides one of the loftiest, most readable synoptic views I’ve come across in quite some time. The extra virtue of his article is that it is ripe with links to other important work available in the public domain. For example, you can learn more about why Libet’s experiments are flawed in their design.

In “Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?,” the philosopher Eddy Nahmias’s answer is resoundingly “no.” He reasons that perhaps philosophers and neuroscientists have devoted too much time to exploring the wrong concerns and far too much space to considering the wrong sorts of questions. Written with the general reader in mind, Nahmias’s is a compelling account with great explanatory power.

And in case you’d like to know what I’m up to with all this “synoptic view” talk, you can read my devilishly short rationale, “Reinventing Public Philosophy,” over at The Ant Hill.

Happy Saturday, readers!