Assessment and modification of free will via scientific techniques

two challenges

Nicole A. Vincent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter highlights two challenges for the broadly compatibilist idea that cognitive neuroscience and behavioural genetics might one day assist in the assessment, restoration and enhancement of free will by developing techniques to measure and modify people’s mental capacities. First, I argue that it is still far from clear precisely how the notion of ‘capacity’ that lies at the core of the compatibilist approach should be understood in order to fulfil its normative function. Second, some mental incapacities can be equally re-described as character flaws, which makes it ambiguous whether particular neurological or genetic features should diminish guilt, mitigate, and perhaps even excuse, or condemn and aggravate, and whether it would be appropriate to offer, coerce or compel affected parties to undergo medical treatments. I highlight these challenges not to undermine compatibilism but to strengthen it by discussing its weaknesses, and I relate my discussion of these weaknesses to some of the claims made by other authors in this volume.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFree will and the brain
Subtitle of host publicationneuroscientific, philosophical, and legal perspectives
EditorsWalter Glannon
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781139565820
ISBN (Print)9781107036031
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Assessment and modification of free will via scientific techniques: two challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this