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