Components and Processes
“Free will” can be seen as a solution to the problem of explaining the origins of human action. This chapter analyzes the problem that free will solves. The cardinal feature of the problem is the flexibility of human action decisions which makes an individual’s actions difficult to predict. The chapter accounts for this flexibility in two ways. The first is based on analyzing the different components of willed action: motivation, goal-directed decision, spontaneous innovation, and the capacity for inhibition. A second approach is based on the processes that produce willed action. The key distinction is between bottom-up processes, in which willed actions are essentially a form of reaction, and top-down processes, in which a central executive instructs the initiation of action. Thinking about free will in terms of components and processes removes much of the conceptual mystique associated with the problem and provides a conceptual toolkit for scientific studies.
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