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Colloquium: Dr. David Noelle on Free Will (CSU Stanislaus)

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.

Post-Event Dinner

Following the event, we'll be meeting up at Pizza Factory for dinner and drinks with our guest. Please join us.

Join or login to comment.

  • David D.

    August 18, 2013

  • Shelli L. E.

    Thank you, Freedom, for hosting this great event! Thank you, David for giving your talk! I enjoyed every minute of it. The after party was awesome, too! It's nice just to hang out once in a while!

    August 16, 2013

  • Troy S.

    Great work, Dr Noelle. Thanks to Freedom, Terry & Nathan for putting iit together.

    August 15, 2013

  • David J.

    Anyone want to share a ride from Sacramento or be picked up on the way down? call [masked]

    August 15, 2013

    • David D.

      I'm leaving from Lodi in about 10 minutes.

      August 15, 2013

  • David J.

    Looks like I am not going to make it. Unless someone calls in the next hour.

    August 15, 2013

  • David D.

    Please Note: The after party is at Pizza Factory directly following the presentation.

    August 14, 2013

  • Troy S.

    We already have a lively discussion going on our Facebook page

    August 14, 2013

  • Freedom

    Can't wait to see you all Thursday! Invite who ever you want. Love to fill the room.

    August 13, 2013

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