The aim of this project is to: 1) Evaluate whether contemporary models of the mechanisms underlying voluntary action confirm or problematize free will – especially in light of “the problem of luck”, and 2) to develop an understanding of free will that accounts for randomness in the mechanisms underlying human action.

The primary hypothesis is that the problem of luck is unsolvable and that freedom of the will is best understood as a graded phenomenon.

Keywords: Free will, nature of the will, agency, volition, autonomy, neurophilosophy, emergence, metacognition, action control, intentional action, intention, reasons and causes, cognition, executive control, executive functions, cognitive control, control and uncertainty, problem of luck.


The question of free will is one of the most enticing and controversial philosophical questions. At times people display great potential for self-directed change, but at the same time we frequently fail to follow through on our own decisions. To what extend are people able to determine their own character and behavior? How can we make sense of human agency and free will in light of our scientific insights? The hypothesis of this project is that a reconceptualization of free will as something graded can solve some of the philosophical puzzles of free will and undo the perceived conflict between philosophy and a scientifically informed picture of agency.

At this stage we are:

Developing arguments in favor of interpreting the probabilities of scientific models in terms of ontological indeterminism.

Testing which of the many philosophical concepts best correspond to every day people’s intuitions of free will.

Developing a graded account of freedom of the will.

Examining how philosophical accounts of freedom of the will and intentional actions to be translated into scientific mechanisms and concrete hypotheses.

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Mark Carstensen
Mark W. Carstensen

Project Lead