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Annu Rev Neurosci. 2010;33:109-30. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-060909-153151.

How does neuroscience affect our conception of volition?

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Department of Philosophy, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.


Although there is no clear concept of volition or the will, we do have intuitive ideas that characterize the will, agency, and voluntary behavior. Here I review results from a number of strands of neuroscientific research that bear upon our intuitive notions of the will. These neuroscientific results provide some insight into the neural circuits mediating behaviors that we identify as related to will and volition. Although some researchers contend that neuroscience will undermine our views about free will, to date no results have succeeded in fundamentally disrupting our common sense beliefs. Still, the picture emerging from neuroscience does raise new questions, and ultimately may put pressure on some intuitive notions about what is necessary for free will.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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