The debate of free will versus determinism is probably the oldest philosophical argument. We humans have made great advances in science, but yet we still have not figured out the answer to this conundrum. The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel Wegner seeks answers to this age-old puzzle. Wegner argues that our conscious free will originates in our brain, and that what we think is free will is an illusion. Despite this controversial view, Wegner makes the case that even though our conscious will is not real; it has helped formulate our notions of morality.
The noted author Sue Blackmore had this to say about the book:
“In The Illusion of Conscious Will, the Harvard psychologist Daniel M. Wegner has finessed all the usual arguments into a remarkable demonstration of how psychology can sometimes transform philosophy. Instead of struggling with the usual debates about the compatibility (or not) of determinism and free will, Wegner shows how the state of being willing arises. It is, he says, when we have to decide whether actions are caused by ourselves or other people, a decision dependent on three principles: priority, consistency, and exclusivity. Put simply, if our thoughts come before an action, are compatible with that action, and there are no other likely causes, then we conclude that we did it, and we get the feeling of conscious will. Wegner provides many ingenious experiments to support his theory”.
Read the BIT “Virtual Agency” to learn more about this important work.