Welcome

This blog is about free will – including scientific work that bears on free will. And it’s intended for everyone who’s interested in the topic. From January 2010 through December 2013, I directed a $4.4 million project on free will and science, funded by the John Templeton Foundation – the Big Questions in Free Will project. It involved a lot of very smart philosophers and scientists who did – and are continuing to do – a lot of very good scientific and philosophical research and writing. During those four years, I spoke to – and wrote for – general audiences much more often than I used to do, and I became very interested in what non-specialists think about free will.

Quite possibly, I’m more interested in what you think about free will than you are in what philosophers and scientists think about it. Time will tell. This blog is a bit of an experiment. I’m committed to running the experiment – out of my own pocket, I should say – for at least one year.

Here are just a few of the topics I’ll be bringing up in later posts: How are studies in neuroscience supposed to prove that free will doesn’t exist, and do they prove this? What evidence is there that free will does exist? What are the main theories about free will today among professional philosophers?

In March 2014, I gave a lecture on free will and science at the University of Central Florida. The organizers gave away free copies of a recent book of mine written for undergraduates – A Dialogue on Free Will and Science – to the first 50 people who showed up for the lecture, and people started turning up an hour early. The organizers were surprised and extremely pleased by the turnout. We had a standing-room-only crowd in a large auditorium. After a lively Q & A session, I thought it would be great if students had a place to interact with each other on themes discussed in the dialogue, even if they aren’t reading the dialogue themselves. This blog can be a place for that – and it can be a lot more.

7 thoughts on “Welcome

  1. Taylor Winslow

    Hello! My name is Taylor Winslow and I was fortunate enough to attend both of your talks at the University of Central Florida, and have since dedicated a great deal of thought each day to the topic of free will. Looking forward to engaging in further discussion on this subject!

  2. Jake

    Hi everyone! My name is Jake, and I am a student at Hamilton College. I am currently enrolled in a religious studies course that focuses on the concept of free will, so I thought it may be fun to share some of my thoughts on the topic and see what you all think.
    The course I am enrolled in is taught by Professor Heidi Ravven, and the class is titled after her book, “The Self Beyond Itself.” In her book, Professor Ravven argues that free will is a cultural assumption that is most prevalent in America, and she suggests that it is possible to build a theory of ethics that doesn’t rely solely on individual moral choice. We have only just begun to explore the text, but from what I have read thus far, I feel as though free will is an idea that is heavily rooted in our individual and societal presuppositions.
    In the first chapter of her book, Professor Ravven provides a careful analysis of an American elementary school. After spending a good deal of time analyzing the administrative practices of the school and observing the actions of the students, she found that moral education in America seems to revolve around individual choices and decision making rather than the actions of the community as whole. These findings were not very surprising to me since the concept of free will is so heavily rooted in American culture, but after discussing these findings with a few of my classmates, we determined that the majority of the actions people take in our society may be influenced by a constant pressure to conform. This then raises the following question: to what extent does the pressure to conform in American society influence the ability of the conscious self to control decision making? Again, all of this material is fairly new to me, so I am very curious to see what you all think!

  3. Ari Mulvaney

    Good day to you, Professor Mele.

    A few days ago I finished reading “Free,” which I found very useful, and I’ve just ordered a copy of “A Dialogue on Free Will and Science.” I don’t have a background in philosophy but I am currently exploring the topic of free will for an artistic endeavor. If you have a moment, would you share your thoughts (assuming you have any) on Bob Doyle’s “Cogito Model” and his notion of “Adequate Determinism”?

    Thank you.

  4. admin Post author

    I haven’t looked at Bob’s work in a while. My recollection is that his model resembles the “modest libertarian” view that I floated in a chapter of *Autonomous Agents*. That view is too modest for most libertarians (that is, people who believe both that free will is incompatible with determinism and that free will exists).

Comments are closed.