Volume 35, Issue 3, September 2020
Louis Vervoort, Tomasz Blusiewicz
Free will and (in)determinism in the brain: a case for naturalized philosophy
In this article we study the question of free will from an interdisciplinary angle, drawing on philosophy, neurobiology and physics. We start by reviewing relevant neurobiological findings on the functioning of the brain, notably as presented in (Koch, 2009); we assess these against the physics of (in)determinism. These biophysics findings seem to indicate that neuronal processes are not quantum but classical in nature. We conclude from this that there is little support for the existence of an immaterial ‘mind’, capable of ruling over matter independently of the causal past. But what, then, can free will be? We propose a compatibilist account that resonates well with neurobiology and physics, and that highlights that free will comes in degrees — degrees which vary with the conscious grasp the ‘free’ agent has over his actions. Finally, we analyze the well-known Libet experiment on free will through the lens of our model. We submit this interdisciplinary investigation as a typical case of naturalized philosophy: in our theorizing we privilege assumptions that find evidence in science, but our conceptual work also suggests new avenues for research in a few scientific disciplines.