Free will/Bibliography

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A list of key readings about Free will.
Please sort and annotate in a user-friendly manner. For formatting, consider using automated reference wikification.
  • Tor Nørretranders (1998). The user illusion: Cutting consciousness down to size, Jonathan Sydenham translation of Maerk verden 1991 ed. Penguin Books. ISBN 00140230122.  An excellent presentation of the history and recent science (up to the late ’80's) related to consciousness, by Denmark's leading science writer.
Historical studies indicate that the phenomena of consciousness as we know it today is probably no more than three thousand years old. The concept of a central "experiencer" and decisionmaker, a conscious 𝐼, has prevailed for only a hundred generations.

  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. Harper & Row. ISBN 0060920432.  The author's presentation of how to achieve happiness, "times when, instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we do feel in control of our actions, masters of our own fate".... "losing the sense of self in a flow experience, and having it emerge stronger afterward".
The first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control. The vast jungles of neurons operate their own programs. The conscious you–the 𝐼 that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning–is the smallest bit of what's transpiring in your brain. Although we are dependent on the functioning of the brain for our inner lives, it runs its own show. Most of its operations are above the security clearance of the conscious mind. The 𝐼 simply has no right of entry...Your consciousness is like a tiny stowaway on a transatlantic steamship, taking credit for the journey without acknowledging the massive engineering underfoot.

The robot's rebellion becomes possible when humans begin to use knowledge of their own brain functioning and knowledge of the goals served by various brain mechanisms to structure their behavior to serve their own ends. The opportunity exists for a remarkable cultural project that would advance human interests over replicator interests when the two do not coincide.

We believe that human cognition depends upon two systems. What we shall call the tacit or implicit system...[and] what we shall call the explicit system...The latter system is employed in sequential verbal reasoning, which people consciously engage in and can give some report about. On the other hand, tacit systems operate in parallel, are computationally extremely powerful, and present only their end-products to consciousness. Such systems may have an innate basis...but are always extensively shaped by interactions with the environment.

  • John Wilson (1968). Reason and Morals, Reprint of 1961 ed. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521094232.  A careful and clearly written review of many philosophical arguments about the relation of free will to morality.