Mele's ultimate purpose in this book is to help readers think more clearly about free will. He identifies and makes vivid the most important conceptual obstacles to justified belief in the existence of free will and meets them head on. Mele clarifies the central issue in the philosophical debate about free will and moral responsibility, criticizes various influential contemporary theories about free will, and develops two overlapping conceptions of free will - one for readers who are convinced that free will (...) is incompatible with determinism, and the other for readers who are convinced of the opposite. Mele's theory offers an original perspective on an important problem and will garner the attention of anyone interested in the debate on free will. (shrink)
My topic lies on conceptual terrain that is quite familiar to philosophers. For others, a bit of background may be in order. In light of what has filtered down from quantum mechanics, few philosophers today believe that the universe is causally deterministic. That is, to use Peter van Inwagen's succinct definition of “determinism,” few philosophers believe that “there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future.” Even so, partly for obvious historical reasons, philosophers continue to argue about whether free (...) will and moral responsibility are compatible with determinism. Compatibilists argue for compatibility, and incompatibilists argue against it. Some incompatibilists maintain that free will and moral responsibility are illusions. But most are libertarians, libertarianism being the conjunction of incompatibilism and the thesis that at least some human beings are possessed of free will and moral responsibility. (shrink)
Although much human action serves as proof that irrational behavior is remarkably common, certain forms of irrationality--most notably, incontinent action and self-deception--pose such difficult theoretical problems that philosophers have rejected them as logically or psychologically impossible. Here, Mele shows that, and how, incontinent action and self-deception are indeed possible. Drawing upon recent experimental work in the psychology of action and inference, he advances naturalized explanations of akratic action and self-deception while resolving the paradoxes around which the philosophical literature revolves. In (...) addition, he defends an account of self-control, argues that "strict" akratic action is an insurmountable obstacle for traditional belief-desire models of action-explanation, and explains how a considerably modified model accommodates action of this sort. (shrink)
This volume showcases cutting-edge scholarship from The Big Questions in Free Will project, funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and directed by Alfred R. Mele. It explores the subject of free will from the perspectives of neuroscience; social, cognitive, and developmental psychology; and philosophy. The volume consists of fourteen new articles and an introduction from top-ranked contributors, all of whom bring fresh perspectives to the question of free will. They investigate questions such as: How do children conceive (...) of free will and how does their concept of free will develop? How does lowered or raised confidence in the existence of free will affect our behavior? What modifies our power to resist temptation? What do lay folk mean by free will? What brain processes underlie decisions? How does the conscious experience of voluntary action contribute to the neural control of behavior? What are the neural differences between deliberate choosing and arbitrary picking? How do neuroscientific studies of decision making in monkeys bear on human free will? Is determinism compatible with free will? What can a proper understanding of causation tell us about free will? What is moral responsibility? Readers interested in the current and future direction of scholarship on free will find this volume essential reading. (shrink)
This paper features Derk Pereboom’s replies to commentaries by Victor Tadros and Saul Smilansky on his non-retributive, incapacitation-focused proposal for treatment of dangerous criminals; by Michael McKenna on his manipulation argument against compatibilism about basic desert and causal determination; and by Alfred R. Mele on his disappearing agent argument against event-causal libertarianism.
In Manipulated Agents, Alfred R. Mele examines the role one's history plays in whether or not one is morally responsible for one's actions. Mele develops a "history-sensitive" theory of moral responsibility through reflection on a wide range of thought experiments which feature agents who have been manipulated or designed in ways that directly affect their actions.
Autonomous Agents addresses the related topics of self-control and individual autonomy. "Self-control" is defined as the opposite of akrasia-weakness of will. The study of self-control seeks to understand the concept of its own terms, followed by an examination of its bearing on one's actions, beliefs, emotions, and personal values. It goes on to consider how a proper understanding of self-control and its manifestations can shed light on personal autonomy and autonomous behaviour. Perspicuous, objective, and incisive throughout, Alfred Mele makes a (...) convincing case for the value of individual autonomy. (shrink)
Does free will exist? The question has fueled heated debates spanning from philosophy to psychology and religion. The answer has major implications, and the stakes are high. To put it in the simple terms that have come to dominate these debates, if we are free to make our own decisions, we are accountable for what we do, and if we aren't free, we're off the hook.There are neuroscientists who claim that our decisions are made unconsciously and are therefore outside of (...) our control and social psychologists who argue that myriad imperceptible factors influence even our minor decisions to the extent that there is no room for free will. According to philosopher Alfred R. Mele, what they point to as hard and fast evidence that free will cannot exist actually leaves much room for doubt. If we look more closely at the major experiments that free will deniers cite, we can see large gaps where the light of possibility shines through.In Free: Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free Will, Mele lays out his opponents' experiments simply and clearly, and proceeds to debunk their supposed findings, one by one, explaining how the experiments don't provide the solid evidence for which they have been touted. There is powerful evidence that conscious decisions play an important role in our lives, and knowledge about situational influences can allow people to respond to those influences rationally rather than with blind obedience.Mele also explores the meaning and ramifications of free will. What, exactly, does it mean to have free will -- is it a state of our soul, or an undefinable openness to alternative decisions? Is it something natural and practical that is closely tied to moral responsibility? Since evidence suggests that denying the existence of free will actually encourages bad behavior, we have a duty to give it a fair chance. (shrink)
Each of the following claims has been defended in the scientific literature on free will and consciousness: your brain routinely decides what you will do before you become conscious of its decision; there is only a 100 millisecond window of opportunity for free will, and all it can do is veto conscious decisions, intentions, or urges; intentions never play a role in producing corresponding actions; and free will is an illusion. In Effective Intentions Alfred Mele shows that the evidence offered (...) to support these claims is sorely deficient. He also shows that there is strong empirical support for the thesis that some conscious decisions and intentions have a genuine place in causal explanations of corresponding actions. In short, there is weighty evidence of the existence of effective conscious intentions or the power of conscious will. Mele examines the accuracy of subjects' reports about when they first became aware of decisions or intentions in laboratory settings and develops some implications of warranted skepticism about the accuracy of these reports. In addition, he explores such questions as whether we must be conscious of all of our intentions and why scientists disagree about this. Mele's final chapter closes with a discussion of imaginary scientific findings that would warrant bold claims about free will and consciousness of the sort he examines in this book. (shrink)
Mele develops a view of paradigmatically free actions--including decisions--as indeterministically caused by their proximal causes. He mounts a masterful defense of this thesis that includes solutions to problems about luck and control widely discussed in the literature on free will and moral responsibility.
Mele's ultimate purpose in this book is to help readers think more clearly about free will. He identifies and makes vivid the most important conceptual obstacles to justified belief in the existence of free will and meets them head on. Mele clarifies the central issues in the philosophical debate about free will and moral responsibility, criticizes various influential contemporary theories about free will, and develops two overlapping conceptions of free will--one for readers who are convinced that free will is incompatible (...) with determinism (incompatibilists), and the other for readers who are convinced of the opposite (compatibilists). Luck poses problems for all believers in free will, and Mele offers novel solutions to those problems--one for incompatibilist believers in free will and the other for compatibilists. An early chapter of this empirically well-informed book clearly explains influential neuroscientific studies of free will and debunks some extravagant interpretations of the data. Other featured topics include abilities and alternative possibilities, control and decision-making, the bearing of manipulation on free will, and the development of human infants into free agents. Mele's theory offers an original perspective on an important problem and will garner the attention of anyone interested in the debate on free will. (shrink)
Whereas some philosophers view all reasons for action as psychological states of agents, others—objective favourers theorists—locate the overwhelming majority of reasons for action outside the agent, in items that objectively favour courses of action. (The latter may count such psychological states as a person's belief that demons dance in his kitchen as a reason for him to seek psychiatric help.) This article explores options that objective favourers theorists have regarding cases in which, owing significantly to a false belief, an agent (...) performs an action for which there is no objective favourer. Topics addressed include whether such theorists, including Jonathan Dancy himself, should accept Dancy's thesis that 'intentional, deliberate, purposeful action is always done for a reason' and whether there are two different concepts of reasons for action, one geared to action-evaluation and the other to action-explanation. (shrink)
People backslide. They freely do things they believe it would be best on the whole not to do. Mele draws on work in social and developmental psychology and in psychiatry to motivate a view of human behavior in which both backsliding and overcoming the temptation to backslide are explicable.