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Making a DifferenceEssays on the Philosophy of Causation$
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Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock, and Huw Price

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746911

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198746911.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 July 2021

My Brain Made Me Do It

My Brain Made Me Do It

The Exclusion Argument Against Free Will, and What’s Wrong with It

(p.269) 14 My Brain Made Me Do It
Making a Difference

Christian List

Peter Menzies

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers a critical assessment of the ‘exclusion argument’ against free will, which may be summarized by the slogan: ‘My brain made me do it, therefore I couldn’t have been free.’ While the exclusion argument has received much attention in debates about mental causation (‘could my mental states ever cause my actions?’), it is seldom discussed in relation to free will. However, the argument informally underlies many neuroscientific discussions of free will, especially the claim that advances in neuroscience seriously challenge our belief in free will. The chapter introduces two distinct versions of the argument, discusses several unsuccessful responses to it, and then presents the authors’ preferred response. This involves showing that a key premise—the ‘exclusion principle’—is false under what the authors take to be the most natural account of causation in the context of agency: the difference-making account. The chapter finally revisits the debate about neuroscience and free will.

Keywords:   free will, compatibilism, physicalism, exclusion argument, mental causation, causation as difference-making, neuroscience, supervenience, non-reductive physicalism, neuroscepticism

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