In most cases, when you choose to act, you are responsible for your decision. If the decision is a good one, you deserve praise. If it is reprehensible, you deserve blame.
To many, these assertions are foundational for matters of ethics and law. Modern cognitive neuroscience, however, is increasingly uncovering how your choices arise from the structure and function of your brain. Since the structure and function of your brain has been determined by factors beyond your control, ranging from your genetic inheritance to your developmental experiences, it is hard to understand how you can be reasonably held responsible for the choices that emerge.
This is the philosophical problem of "free will". When our choices are the result of the physical laws that govern the development and activity of our brains, in what sense can we be said to be in control of our own decisions?
In this presentation, the philosophical problem of free will will be briefly reviewed. Recent neuroscience studies that have been used to argue that free will is illusory will be described and critically assessed. Other cognitive neuroscience findings that directly bear on questions of self control and decision making will be discussed, and conceptions of personal responsibility that are compatible with scientific findings will be introduced. Finally, the ramifications of these issues for crime and punishment will be explored.
About David Noelle
Dr. David C. Noelle is Associate Professor of Cognitive and Information Sciences at the University of California, Merced (UCM).
He received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Computer Science from the University of California, San Diego, and he completed postdoctoral training at the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition at Carnegie Mellon University.
Dr. Noelle's research involves the fabrication, analysis, and testing of computational models of brain function, with a focus on the prefrontal cortex and its role in learning, memory, and the control of behavior.
He is also the faculty adviser for the Society of Freethinkers at UCM.
Doors open at 6:30 PM. Presentation starts at 7:00.
Parking and Admission
Parking is free at CSUS after 5pm, and spaces near Naraghi Hall are plentiful! You should be able to park right next to the building and walk in.
Admission to this public event is free.
Following the event, we'll be meeting up at Pizza Factory for dinner and drinks with our guest. Please join us.