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Doubting Free Will: Three Experiments

John A. Humbach

Pace University School of Law

January 12, 2010

This paper describes three experiments that cast doubt on the existence of 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 such, they throw into question the factual basis of the freewill justification for purposefully inflicting serious human suffering as punishment.

This paper is a break out from an earlier version of my companion paper, Free Will Ideology: Experiments, Evolution and Virtue Ethics, available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1428002.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 8

Keywords: free will, criminal law, punishment, determinism, compatibilism, voluntary act, retribution, retributivism, evolution, Libet, Phi effect, human suffering, neuroscience, brain, behavior

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Date posted: January 12, 2010 ; Last revised: March 27, 2010

Suggested Citation

Humbach, John A., Doubting Free Will: Three Experiments (January 12, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1535480 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1535480

Contact Information

John A. Humbach (Contact Author)
Pace University School of Law ( email )
78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States
(914) 422-4239 (Phone)
(914) 422-4015 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://law.pace.edu/jhumbach/
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