Libet's Challenge(s) to Responsible Agency

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines the neuroscientific challenges stemming from the kind of experiments begun in the early 1980s by Benjamin Libet and his associates. It argues that Libet's work is philosophically challenged rather than challenging. According to Libet's own characterizations of his challenges to the folk psychology: "If the 'act now' process is initiated unconsciously, then conscious free will is not doing it." Three things run together in the phrase, "conscious free will": firstly, maybe a conscious will is initiating action, but it isn't a free will doing the work; secondly, maybe there is consciousness and freedom at the time of action initiation, but there is no will doing any action initiation; and thirdly, maybe there is a free will operating to initiate actions, but there is no consciousness of that will or its operations at the time it is initiating actions. The chapter shows that Libet elided these three distinct challenges together.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationConscious Will and Responsibility
Subtitle of host publicationA Tribute to Benjamin Libet
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199864911
ISBN (Print)9780195381641
StatePublished - Nov 24 2010


  • Benjamin Libet
  • Folk psychology
  • Free will
  • Intentions
  • Morality
  • Readiness potentials
  • Responsibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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