Free Will, Self-Governance and Neuroscience: An Overview

Alisa Carse, Hilary Bok, Debra Jh Mathews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given dramatic increases in recent decades in the pace of scientific discovery and understanding of the functional organization of the brain, it is increasingly clear that engagement with the neuroscientific literature and research is central to making progress on philosophical questions regarding the nature and scope of human freedom and responsibility. While patterns of brain activity cannot provide the whole story, developing a deeper and more precise understanding of how brain activity is related to human choice and conduct is crucial to the development of realistic, just, and intellectually rigorous models of human agency and moral responsibility. In this special issue, we acknowledge that “free will” and “moral responsibility” are not concepts with which neuroscience can directly engage, and instead focus on self-governance, and the capacities that contribute to self-governance, which are more tractable for scientific investigation and are prerequisites for the presence of moral responsibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-244
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Decision-making
  • Free will
  • Moral responsibility
  • Neuroscience
  • Self-governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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