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Surrounding Free WillPhilosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience$
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Alfred R. Mele

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199333950

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199333950.001.0001

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The Origins and Development of Our Conception of Free Will

The Origins and Development of Our Conception of Free Will

(p.4) 2 The Origins and Development of Our Conception of Free Will
Surrounding Free Will

Alison Gopnik

Tamar Kushnir

Oxford University Press

The intuition that our actions are freely willed is one of the deepest parts of our folk psychology and has profound consequences for ideas about autonomy, responsibility and morality. There has been surprisingly little study of the development of these intuitions in childhood or their career later on. This chapter reviews studies in our lab of preschoolers’ developing intuitions about free will. These studies suggest that some intuitions are in place at a very early age—particularly the sense that there is a distinction between physically constrained and unconstrained choice. Other intuitions, however, are quite different for preschoolers and adults—four-year-olds, for example, predict that agents will not be able to act in contradiction to their own desires or of moral imperatives. The significance of these findings for accounts of the origins of our concept of free will is discussed.

Keywords:   autonomy, blame, developmental psychology, choice, folk psychology, free will, moral responsibility

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