Free Will and Consciousness by Gregg Caruso

Many philosophers believe that free will is an illusion. It is an extraordinarily powerful illusion, which accounts for the fact that hardly anyone can bear to give it up. Even after being convinced by a series of cogent philosophical arguments, it will seem to a conscious agent that he is making genuine choices at points where he could have done otherwise.

If you dismiss these assertions out of hand, then of course there is no point reading further. (You will have had no choice in the matter!) Should you be intrigued, please open your mind to these arguments as offered in a recent presentation by Gregg Caruso ( of SUNY (The State University of New York,, Free Will and Consciousness.

The free will debates in philosophy go right back to the Greeks, of course. In recent decades there have been significant advances in the behavioural, cognitive, and neurosciences. From these, the idea that patterns of human behaviour may ultimately be due to factors beyond our conscious control has increasingly gained traction.

In this book, the author sets out a thorough reminder of traditional arguments. He then explains recent experimental and theoretical work directly related to consciousness and human agency. He argues that our best scientific theories indeed imply that factors beyond our control produce all of the actions we perform, and that because of this we do not possess the kind of free will required for genuine or ultimate responsibility. It is further argued that the strong and pervasive belief in free will, which the author considers an illusion, can be accounted for through a careful analysis of our phenomenology and a proper theoretical understanding of consciousness. Indeed, the primary goal of this book is to argue that our subjective feeling of freedom, as reflected in the first-person phenomenology of agentive experience, is an illusion created by certain aspects of our consciousness.

Enquire at your local library or consult  for further bibliographic detail.

Follow with compelling arguments in Daniel M. Wegner’s book ‘The Illusion of Conscious Will’ (reviewed by me here

Along the same lines is Dick Swaab’s book ‘We Are Our Brains’ (reviewed by me here

For a reflection on what it would mean to truly embrace a denial of free will read this article by Sam Harris

Listen to Gregg Caruso discuss free will as an illusion in relation to the idea of punishment in a Philosophy Bites podcast from 2016 (

312 pages in Lexington Books

First published 2013

ISBN  978-0739184400

Gregg D. Caruso

Professor Gregg D. Caruso

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