What Naturalists always Knew about Freedom: A Case Study in Narrative Sources of “Scientific Facts”

Winfried Löffler


In recent years the philosophical landscape in Germany was dominated by one major public debate: the freedom of the will. Well-known brain scientists and empirical psychologists collected ample empirical material that they consider to be strong evidence for determinism. In his article Löffler studies accurately the history of the alleged research and how authors make use of the supposedly abundant empirical material. The conclusion of this study is rather perplexing: The seemingly robust empirical claims, as they are boasted by dominating scientists of the debate, are flatly wrong. Löffler even speaks of a “piece of neuromythology” which has been created over the years by a mixture of sloppy citations, confidence to hearsay, overinterpretations, slight mistranslations, confabulations, and commingling of probabilistic and strict correlations. Of course, this study is not a refutation of naturalistic accounts of free will. It does not show that we will never be able to solve the problem of free will with the help of empirical investigations. But Löffler’s contribution shows that we do good to prove how modern naturalists come to the conclusion that old philosophical puzzles have been solved thanks to modern science.


20th century philosophy; metaphysics; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; action; brain research; free will; Libet experiment; naturalism; neuroscience; Delgado Mariano; Roth Gerhard; stimulation

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