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Surveying Freedom: Folk Intuitions about free will and moral responsibility

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Philosophers working in the nascent field of ‘experimental philosophy' have begun using methods borrowed from psychology to collect data about folk intuitions concerning debates ranging from action theory to ethics to epistemology. In this paper we present the results of our attempts to apply this approach to the free will debate, in which philosophers on opposing sides claim that their view best accounts for and accords with folk intuitions. After discussing the motivation for such research, we describe our methodology of surveying people's prephilosophical judgments about the freedom and responsibility of agents in deterministic scenarios. In two studies, we found that a majority of participants judged that such agents act of their own free will and are morally responsible for their actions. We then discuss the philosophical implications of our results as well as various difficulties inherent in such research.
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Keywords: Experimental Philosophy; Folk Psychology; Free Will; Moral Responsibility

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2005

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