There is no free won't: The role definitions play

L.J.F. Asma

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper, I analyse how neuroscientists come to the conclusion that the brain 'decides' what we will do. I do so by focusing on a recent study on free won't, from which it is concluded that the decision to veto is not free. First, I argue that assumptions about voluntariness and freedom that underlie this and other Libet-style experiments are more stringent than assumed by other critics (Mele, 2009; Schlosser, 2014). Second, I claim that these assumptions lead to an experimental setting in which the conclusion that the brain 'decides' is almost unavoidable. This is because the only decisions subjects are allowed to make in these experiments are spontaneous decisions that are not based on reasons. Even if the subjects acted for reasons or deliberated about what to do it would not be interpreted as such. Because of this, alternative definitions of voluntariness and freedom are necessary for neuroscientific experiments to provide a valuable contribution to the debate on free will.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-23
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Consciousness Studies
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Libet-style experiments
  • free will
  • neuroscience


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