Serious thinkers contend that free will cannot exist in a deterministic universe — one in which events are the singular outcomes of the conditions in which they occur. The alternative view, that free will is prerequisite for personal responsibility and morality, is the basis of our legal and religious institutions.

In an SFI Community Lecture on Wednesday evening, May 14, in Santa Fe, philosopher and SFI External Professor Daniel Dennett unraveled this conundrum and asked whether we must jettison one of these notions, or whether they can co-exist. He then asked: if free will is an illusion, as many scientists say, should we conclude that we don’t need real free will to be responsible for our actions?

Watch the video here

Dennett is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy and Director, Center for Cognitive Studies, at Tufts University and author of Breaking the Spell (Viking, 2006), Freedom Evolves (Viking Penguin, 2003) and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Simon & Schuster, 1995).

SFI Community Lectures are broadcast live online. To watch a lecture as it happens, visit SFI's YouTube page. You can participate in the live Twitter discussion at #sfi_live or @sfi_live.

SFI’s 2014 Community Lectures are made possible through the generous support of Thornburg Investment Management.

For a complete listing of upcoming community events, please check here.

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