Capital Consortium for Neuroscience: Ethical, Legal and Social Issues

Friday, June 4, 2010
4:00- 6PM

The Neurobiology of Free Will: How I Learned to Love Determinism and Still Respect Myself in the Morning

The deterministic assumptions of much of neuroscience are often thought to undermine the idea that we can be responsible or attributable for our actions. Thus, some claim if psychology is reducible to neurobiology, then there is no room for free will and hence for moral responsibility.

In this lecture, Dr. William Casebeer offers a different approach. Dr. Casebeer argues that if we stop talking about "free will" and instead start talking about the "neuroscience of control," we can rescue what is worth keeping--morally speaking--about the notion of agency. Dr. Casebeer asserts that a neo-Aristotelian science of critical control distinctions will help us save responsibility from nihilism, while at the same time, allows us to still taking neuroscience seriously.

Speaker Information

Lieutenant Colonel William Casebeer, USAF

Lieutenant Colonel Casebeer is a career intelligence analyst and Lieutenant Colonel in the active duty US Air Force. He has served as an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the USAF Academy and as a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Bill has published in journals ranging from "Nature Reviews Neuroscience" to "International Relations," is author of "Natural Ethical Facts: Evolution, Connectionism, and Moral Cognition," (MIT Press, 2003) and co-author of "Warlords Rising: Confronting Violent Non-State Actors" (Lexington Books, 2005). Dr. Casebeer is a distinguished graduate of Squadron Officer School and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego in cognitive science and philosophy, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Arizona, an M.A. in national security affairs from NPS, and a B.S. in political science from the USAF Academy. His research interests include neuroethics, the evolution of morality, the intersections of cognitive science and national security policy, philosophy of mind, social modeling and simulation, and issues in military ethics. His travel and research in over 100 countries informs his thinking, as have his deployments to the Middle East and South Asia. He lives with his wife and four children in Dahlgren, Virginia, where he is currently stationed at the Joint Warfare Analysis Center as a member of their Technical Council.



For additional information, tentative schedule, media access, or to register, please contact Guillermo Palchik at