Consciousness, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility

Authored by: Gregg D. Caruso

The Routledge Handbook Of Consciousness

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138936218
eBook ISBN: 9781315676982
Adobe ISBN:


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In recent decades, with advances in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, the idea that patterns of human behavior may ultimately be due to factors beyond our conscious control has increasingly gained traction and renewed interest in the age-old problem of free will. To properly assess what, if anything, these empirical advances can tell us about free will and moral responsibility, we first need to get clear on the following questions: Is consciousness necessary for free will? If so, what role or function must it play? For example, are agents morally responsible for actions and behaviors that are carried out automatically or without conscious control or guidance? Are they morally responsible for actions, judgments, and attitudes that are the result of implicit biases or situational features of their surroundings of which they are unaware? Clarifying the relationship between consciousness and free will is imperative if we want to evaluate the various arguments for and against free will.

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