Skip navigation
Hardcover | $39.00 | £26.95 | ISBN: 9780262019101 | 472 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 28 b&w illus.| February 2013
Paperback | $25.00 | £17.95 | ISBN: 9780262528313 | 472 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 28 b&w illus.| August 2015
Ebook | $28.00 | ISBN: 9780262313148 | 472 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 28 b&w illus.| February 2013
About MIT Press Ebooks

The Neural Basis of Free Will

Criterial Causation


The issues of mental causation, consciousness, and free will have vexed philosophers since Plato. In this book, Peter Tse examines these unresolved issues from a neuroscientific perspective. In contrast with philosophers who use logic rather than data to argue whether mental causation or consciousness can exist given unproven first assumptions, Tse proposes that we instead listen to what neurons have to say.

Tse draws on exciting recent neuroscientific data concerning how informational causation is realized in physical causation at the level of NMDA receptors, synapses, dendrites, neurons, and neuronal circuits. He argues that a particular kind of strong free will and “downward” mental causation are realized in rapid synaptic plasticity. Such informational causation cannot change the physical basis of information realized in the present, but it can change the physical basis of information that may be realized in the immediate future. This gets around the standard argument against free will centered on the impossibility of self-causation. Tse explores the ways that mental causation and qualia might be realized in this kind of neuronal and associated information-processing architecture, and considers the psychological and philosophical implications of having such an architecture realized in our brains.

About the Author

Peter Ulric Tse is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014.


... a groundbreaking new paradigm about how the mind works.
New York Journal of Books

I love Tse's book. It has literally set me free. It explains these ideas in full glory, in exquisite detail...
Stephen Macknik, Scientific American


Winner, 2013 American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award) for Excellence in Biological & Life Sciences, presented by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers