Choices without choosers: toward a neuropsychologically plausible existentialism

Neil Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Existentialists are often accused of painting a bleak picture of human existence. In this chapter, Neil Levy contends that, in the light of contemporary cognitive science, the picture is not bleak enough. And, although there are grounds for thinking the picture bleaker than existentialists suggest, he argues that it is not hopeless. The unified self that serves as the ultimate source of value in an otherwise meaningless universe may not exist, but we can each impose a degree of unity on ourselves. The existentialists were sociologically naïve in supposing a degree of distinction between agents and their cultural milieu that was never realistic. We are thrown into history, culture, and a biological and evolutionary history which we never fully understand and can only inflect, all without foundations and lacking even the security of knowing the extent to which or what we choose. Existentialism must face ontological, epistemological, and axiological insecurity.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeuroexistentialism
Subtitle of host publicationmeaning, morals, and purpose in the age of neuroscience
EditorsGregg D. Caruso, Owen Flanagan
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780190460723
ISBN (Print)9780190460723, 9780190460730
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Choice
  • Cognitive science
  • Existentialism
  • Free will
  • Meaning
  • Neuropsychology
  • Neuroscience


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