Mark Balaguer

In reality, it appears that we have free will in daily life and that our actions are determined by conscious choices we make on a voluntary basis. You get off the couch, take a stroll, and have some chocolate ice cream. These activities appear to be under our control; if they are, then we must possess free will. However, others have recently asserted that free will is a myth. For instance, the late Harvard psychologist Daniel Wegner and neuroscientist (and best-selling author) Sam Harris argue that some scientific results refute free will. The philosopher Mark Balaguer investigates the numerous claims and tests that have been presented to support the idea that people lack free will in this interesting and approachable work from the Essential Knowledge series. He considers them to be exaggerated and erroneous.

Balaguer argues that every physical event is predetermined or entirely brought about by earlier occurrences in his discussion of determinism. He outlines a number of metaphysical and empirical arguments against free will, including one based on Benjamin Libet’s well-known neuroscientific studies that purport to demonstrate that our conscious decisions are the result of neurological events that take place before we select. He takes into account numerous philosophical and religious viewpoints, including compatibilism, a pro-free-will philosophical position. Balaguer comes to the conclusion that the objections against free will advanced by philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists are invalid. They don’t offer any convincing arguments against the reality of the free will. He adds that this does not necessarily imply that humans have free will, though. We simply don’t understand the brain well enough to be able to provide a conclusive answer to the question of whether we have free will.