Jan. 23-24: Free will explored in philosophy forum

By Adriana Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences

Mele-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Recent discoveries in neuroscience are challenging long-held beliefs about conscious decision making or “free will.” Alfred Mele, an expert in action theory, will examine this critical intersection of science and philosophy in two free public events Jan. 23-24, at Washington State University Pullman.

On Thursday, he will deliver the 52nd Frank Fraser Potter Memorial Lecture in Philosophy, “Free Will and Neuroscience: What Do Old-School and New-Wave Studies Show?” at 7 p.m. in the CUB auditorium.

On Friday, he will present the Potter Talk, “The Power of Situations, People and Education,” at noon in Bryan Hall 308.

Biochemistry ‘decides’

Mele is the William H. and Lucyle T. Werckmeister professor of philosophy at Florida State University. His research focus areas include action theory, free will, rationality and self-deception. His current work explores whether the results of neuroscience experiments give us reason for denying that human beings have free will.

While people generally think we have conscious control over our decisions, experimental neuroscientists are challenging this belief. They argue that conscious decisions occur after biochemical processes in our brains already have effectively “decided,” making the concept of free will an illusion.

The cross-disciplinary aspects of Mele’s research should be especially relevant to the WSU community, said Joe Campbell, professor of philosophy.

Humanities and science

“Mele is squarely rooted in the humanities, working on the topic of free will, yet he interacts with scientists, particularly neuroscientists and other psychologists, whose work has some real bearing on these traditionally philosophical debates.”

Author of 10 books, including “Why Science Hasn’t Disproven Free Will,” Mele directed the Big Questions in Free Will Project, a four-year research program supported by a $4.4 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

He has edited six books and written hundreds of journal articles, encyclopedia entries and book reviews. A list of his publications, with links to electronic versions of many, can be found online at http://myweb.fsu.edu/amele/almele.html.

Both talks honor Frank Fraser Potter, who taught Latin, Greek and Italian at WSU for more than 35 years. Recent Potter lecturers include such distinguished philosophers as Daniel C. Dennett, Harry G. Frankfurt and Noam Chomsky.

Both of these “beyond-the-classroom” education enrichment events are sponsored by the School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs in the WSU College of Arts and Sciences. The Potter Talk is co-sponsored by the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy & Public Service at WSU.



Joe Campbell, WSU School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, josephc@wsu.edu, 509-335-9106

Adriana Aumen, WSU College of Arts and Sciences communicatons, adriana@wsu.edu, 509-335-5671