Munich Neuroscience Calendar


30.11.2017, 18:00 Chair of Philosophy of Mind

Event Type: Talk
Speaker: Patrick Haggard
Institute: (UCL)

Title: 'Neuroscience and the Law'

LMU Hauptgebäude, M210
Geschwister-Scholl-Pl. 1
80539 München

Host: Prof. Dr. Ophelia Deroy
Host Email:
Volition is a putative cognitive process that causes voluntary actions, and thus explains their voluntariness. But does it really exist? And what is it? In neuropsychology, the process of volition is often treated as synonymous with its putative marker, namely the bereitschaftspotential of the human EEG. However, neurocognitive accounts of volition face heavy deflationary pressure from two directions: first, illusionist theories view volition as a mere post-hoc confabulation or trick of the mind that drives the mental narrative of our own actions. This view would deny any specific brain process that causes voluntary action. A second deflationary pressure comes from recent computational models showing that the bereitschaftspotential could actually be an artefact of averaging random neural noise, rather than a readout of the process of volition. I will report some recent exercises in neurocognitive ontology, which set out to investigate whether there is indeed a specific process of volition that precedes some actions, or not. Important academic questions in psychology and neuroscience, as well as wider issues of social, legal and moral responsibility, all depend on this issue.

Biography: Patrick Haggard (FBA) is professor of Cognitive neuroscience at UCL, London. His research examines the cognitive neuroscience of voluntary action, and the representation of one’s own body. This research closely interacts with philosophical and legal topics, and Patrick Haggard has contributed extensively to philosophical debates on free will and the sense of self, as well legal issues regarding voluntary action and the law. In 2016, he was an associate researcher at the Institute of Philosophy in London, and is the recipient of the prestigious Chaire Blaise Pascal in Paris, starting in 2018.