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Conscious Will and ResponsibilityA Tribute to Benjamin Libet$
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Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Lynn Nadel

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195381641

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195381641.001.0001

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Libet’s Challenge(s) to Responsible Agency

Libet’s Challenge(s) to Responsible Agency

Chapter:
(p.207) Chapter 18 Libet’s Challenge(s) to Responsible Agency
Source:
Conscious Will and Responsibility
Author(s):

Michael S. Moore (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195381641.003.0019

This chapter examines the neuroscientific challenges stemming from the kind of experiments begun in the early 1980s by Benjamin Libet and his associates. It argues that Libet's work is philosophically challenged rather than challenging. According to Libet's own characterizations of his challenges to the folk psychology: “If the ‘act now’ process is initiated unconsciously, then conscious free will is not doing it.” Three things run together in the phrase, “conscious free will”: firstly, maybe a conscious will is initiating action, but it isn't a free will doing the work; secondly, maybe there is consciousness and freedom at the time of action initiation, but there is no will doing any action initiation; and thirdly, maybe there is a free will operating to initiate actions, but there is no consciousness of that will or its operations at the time it is initiating actions. The chapter shows that Libet elided these three distinct challenges together.

Keywords:   intentions, responsibility, Benjamin Libet, folk psychology, readiness potentials, morality, free will

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