Libet and the case for free will scepticism

Tim Bayne*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter examines what is arguably the most influential rebutting objection in the current literature, an objection that appeals to Benjamin Libet's studies concerning the neural basis of agency. Although Libet himself stopped short of endorsing free will scepticism on the basis of his results, other theorists have not been so cautious, and his work is often said to show that we lack free will. It is argued that Libet's findings show no such thing. However, Libet's experiments do raise a number of interesting and important questions for accounts of free will. In particular, Libet's experiments raise challenging questions about the analysis of the concept of free will. In order to determine whether brain science supports free will scepticism we need not only to understand the relevant brain science, we also need to understand just what the common-sense or folk notion of free will commits us to. The latter requirement may be as difficult to meet as the former one is.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFree Will and Modern Science
EditorsRichard Swinburne
Place of PublicationOxford ; New York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780191754074
ISBN (Print)9780197264898, 0197264891
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • agency
  • Benjamin Libet
  • brain science
  • common sense
  • free will


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