Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will / Edition 1

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More About This Textbook


How is free will possible in the light of the physical and chemical underpinnings of brain activity and recent neurobiological experiments? How can the emergence of complexity in hierarchical systems such as the brain, based at the lower levels in physical interactions, lead to something like genuine free will? The nature of our understanding of free will in the light of present-day neuroscience is becoming increasingly important because of remarkable discoveries on the topic being made by neuroscientists at the present time, on the one hand, and its crucial importance for the way we view ourselves as human beings, on the other. A key tool in understanding how free will may arise in this context is the idea of downward causation in complex systems, happening coterminously with bottom up causation, to form an integral whole. Top-down causation is usually neglected, and is therefore emphasized in the other part of the book’s title. The concept is explored in depth, as are the ethical and legal implications of our understanding of free will.

This book arises out of a workshop held in California in April of 2007, which was chaired by Dr. Christof Koch. It was unusual in terms of the breadth of people involved: they included physicists, neuroscientists, psychiatrists, philosophers, and theologians. This enabled the meeting, and hence the resulting book, to attain a rather broader perspective on the issue than is often attained at academic symposia. The book includes contributions by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, George F. R. Ellis , Christopher D. Frith, Mark Hallett, David Hodgson, Owen D. Jones, Alicia Juarrero, J. A. Scott Kelso, Christof Koch, Hans Küng, Hakwan C. Lau, Dean Mobbs, Nancey Murphy, William Newsome, Timothy O’Connor, Sean A.. Spence, and Evan Thompson.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9783642032042
  • Publisher: Springer Berlin Heidelberg
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Series: Understanding Complex Systems Series
  • Edition description: 2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 291
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction and Overview Nancey Murphy 1

Part I Physics, Emergence, and Complex Systems

2 Free Will, Physics, Biology, and the Brain Christof Koch 31

3 Human Freedom and "Emergence" William T. Newsome 53

4 Top-Down Causation and the Human Brain George F.R. Ellis 63

5 Top-Down Causation and Autonomy in Complex Systems Alicia Juarrero 83

6 Toward a Complementary Neuroscience: Metastable Coordination Dynamics of the Brain J.A. Scott Kelso Emmanuelle Tognoli 103

Part II Volition and Consciousness: Are They Illusions?

7 Physiology of Volition Mark Hallett 127

8 How We Recognize Our Own Actions Sarah-Jayne Blakemore 145

9 Volition and the Function of Consciousness Hakwan C. Lau 153

Part III Broader Understandings of Volition and Consciousness

10 Conscious Willing and the Emerging Sciences of Brain and Behavior Timothy O'Connor 173

11 Contemplative Neuroscience as an Approach to Volitional Consciousness Evan Thompson 187

12 Free Will and Top-Down Control in the Brain Chris D. Frith 199

13 Thinking beyond the Bereitschaftspotential: Consciousness of Self and Others as a Necessary Condition for Change Sean A. Spence 211

Part IV Human Implications of the Debate

14 Criminal Responsibility, Free Will, and Neuroscience David Hodgson 227

15 Law, Responsibility, and the Brain Dean Mobbs Hakwan C. Lau Owen D. Jones Chris D. Frith 243

16 The Controversy over Brain Research Hans Küng 261

Author Index 271

Index 273

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