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Pace University

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

Law and Society

2010

Free will

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Free Will Ideology: Experiments, Evolution And Virtue Ethics, John A. Humbach Mar 2010

Free Will Ideology: Experiments, Evolution And Virtue Ethics, John A. Humbach

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

The concept of free will is a problematic basis for assessing legal accountability.

First of all, free will could never have evolved in a world of ordinary biological pressures. There is, moreover, substantial experimental evidence against it. This evidentiary situation is a serious moral concern because free will ideology plays a key role in justifying punishment in criminal law. People draw a sharp distinction between the suffering of innocents and suffering that is deserved. As a basis for criminal punishment, the very concept of just deserts usually presupposes that wrongdoers have a choice in what they do.

The essay proceeds …


Doubting Free Will: Three Experiments, John A. Humbach Jan 2010

Doubting Free Will: Three Experiments, John A. Humbach

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Faculty Publications

This paper describes three experiments that cast doubt on the existence free will. All deal with the phenomenon that, for a variety of reasons, people do not consciously experience events (including their own “choices”) at the exact instant they occur. The existence of these delays is sufficient to cast serious doubt on the possibility of conscious free will, i.e., free will as we usually understand it.

While these experiments do not definitely exclude the possibility of free will, they do provide affirmative evidence that our brains do not consciously make decisions in quite the way that introspection tells us. As …