The Four Levels of Free Will

Volume 17
Issue 2
Grant Gillett & Sam Liu
The problem of free will is expressed in a seemingly inconsistent triad arising because, as moral agents we consider ourselves unique among the creatures of the world and yet, as scientists (and more importantly cognitive neuroscientists), we study cognitive mechanisms in human beings as we do any other natural phenomena. The Free Will triad is as follows:

1. Free will is the link between the soul (or psyche) and human action. 2. The soul is the aspect of a human being that cannot be explained in terms of physical or biological sciences. 3. Human existence and action occurs within a natural world subject to explanations grounded in the physical and biological sciences.

Cognitive neuroscience does its work at the centre of this problem and therefore it is useful to construct an account of human action in which free (and morally significant) action can be understood in a way that embodies an interpretation of the Free Will triad within an orthodox construal of natural science. The philosophical debate, is often metaphysical structured by absolute dogmata about nature and what happens within it, and that does not always help but an Aristotelian theoretical framework supplemented by the evolutionary neurology of John Hughlings-Jackson and recent work in embodied cognition offers a different analysis in which cognitive neuroscience and the ethology of human adaptation to an objective, reflective, normative domain of activity suggest a way ahead.

Keywords: free will, reason-responsiveness, dynamic systems theory, autopoiesis, causation