"Does Free Will Exist?" Options for Making "Free Will," "Free Decision," and "Free Action" Objects of Psychological Research

  • Uwe Laucken Universität Oldenburg
Keywords: free will, modes of thinking, thought object, forms of explanation, pseudo-empirical research


Neuroscientists have reopened the longstanding question of whether human beings have free will. In this article, I analyze their claims to have experimentally falsified the existence of free will. In order to provide an existence proof for something, its fundamental modes of existence have to be analyzed. Such an analysis constitutes the major part of this article. Three modes of thinking are distinguished, differing in the way they constitute their object. I then ask, how free will can realized as object in such a way that the question about its existence can be asked in a meaningful way. This approach brings out characteristic possibilities for the object of thought—here free will, free decision, and free action. For example, it turns out that free will—as a fact of practical life—has not place in the material world of the neurosciences. Claims that there is no free will are therefore always correct within a material approach to the question. To provide a material proof therefore constitutes a pseudo empirical method. The situation is fundamentally different in the two remaining, semantic and phenomenal approaches. But even in these approaches there are problems. I close by asking how we can relate the object construction of the three approaches in such a way that it is possible to ask and empirically study questions of the type "How is it possible that ...? URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs050185


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Author Biography

Uwe Laucken, Universität Oldenburg
Uwe LAUCKEN ist Professor für Sozialpsychologie an der Universität Oldenburg. Seine Forschungsgebiete lassen sich in folgende Rubriken unterteilen: 1. Umgangswissen – seine logographische Explikation und seine sozialpraktische Bedeutung (vgl. z.B. zus. m. Ulrich MEES "Logographie alltäglichen Lebens. Leid, Schuld und Recht in Beschwerdebriefen über Lärm". Oldenburg: Holzberg, 1987). 2. Theoretische Psychologie (vgl. z.B. "Theoretische Psychologie. Denkformen und Sozialpraxen". Oldenburg: BIS-Verlag der Universität Oldenburg, 2003). 3. Geschichte der Psychologie (vgl. z.B. "Sozialpsychologie. Geschichte, Hauptströmungen, Tendenzen". Oldenburg: BIS-Verlag der Universität Oldenburg, 1998). 4. Individual- und Sozialsemantik zwischenmenschlicher Beziehungen (vgl. z.B. "Zwischenmenschliches Vertrauen". Oldenburg: BIS-Verlag der Universität Oldenburg, 2001).
FQS Debate: Quality of Qualitative Research