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Title: Agency and freedom of the will : the challenge from psychology
Author: Scaife, Robin K.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2722 1508
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2011
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Many philosophers have argued that free will is compatible with determinism in general, but is it compatible with what modern psychology tells us about the causes of our actions? There is a widespread commitment in the philosophical literature that an agent only, acts of their own free will if their capacity for deliberative choice has a controlling influence over their actions. This thesis presents the argument that 'normal' human agents cannot meet this requirement for free will on a regular and reliable basis. I will present empirical evidence which suggests that 'normal' human agents have a limited capacity for deliberative choice. Furthermore, I will also present evidence that our actions are often determined by non-conscious influences which can cause us to act in ways which we would not deliberatively choose. I will argue that this problem is exacerbated by the fact that our attempts to gain introspective knowledge of our own motivations often result in us constructing plausible but inaccurate accounts of the causes of our actions. This failure to notice cases in which we are acting in ways which conflict with our deliberative choices prevents us from reliably employing any systematic strategies to guard against such cases. The thesis considers the impact of this empirical challenge on four prominent contemporary accounts of free will which are representative of the wider philosophical literature on the topic. These are the accounts proposed by Harry Frankfurt, Michael Bratman, Daniel Dennett and Robert Kane. I argue that all of these accounts are undermined by evidence already available provided by psychological trials. I conclude that these theories, and all others which require that deliberative choice has a controlling influence over our actions, must either revise this commitment, or concede that genuine freedom of the will is not as easily attained as is commonly assumed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available