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Behav Sci Law. 2007;25(2):295-308.

The neuroscience of "free will".

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  • 1New York University School of Medicine, 22 Riverside Drive #14-A, New York, NY 10023, USA.


Advances in neuroscience over the past 40 or more years are causing a re-visiting of an old debate: Does man possess free will over his actions, or do forces out of his control determine his behavior? Philosophers and biologists since the beginning of recorded history have taken positions on each side of the debate. Recent discoveries of brain activation prior to conscious awareness and genetic conditions that induce impulsive violent behavior are fortifying the perspective that biological determinism is basic to the human condition. But some contemporary thinkers are conflicted in this viewpoint since "free will" is a necessary element for self-determination and for attributing personal responsibility for one's actions. Hence, modifications of strict determinism have emerged which try to incorporate the features of determinism enforced by neuroscience findings with some element of "free will", making the two seemingly opposed positions compatible. How successful this will be to rescue "free will" in the long term depends on future discoveries in neuroscience and genetics.

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