Does Neuroscience Leave Room for Free Will?

Trends Neurosci. 2018 Sep;41(9):573-576. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2018.05.008. Epub 2018 Jun 28.


A reductively mechanistic approach to neuroscience suggests that low-level physical laws determine our actions and that mental states are epiphenomena. In this scheme there seems to be little room for free will or genuine agency. I argue here that physical indeterminacy provides room for the information entailed in patterns of neuronal firing - the mental content of beliefs, goals, and intentions - to have real causal power in decision-making.

Keywords: agency; compatibilism; determinism; emergence; meaning; reductionism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Personal Autonomy*