A Quantum Model of Non-illusory Free Will

  • Kathryn Blackmond LaskeyEmail author
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 414)


Contemporary science and philosophy are dominated by a mechanistic materialist metaphysic that treats consciousness as a derivative aspect of the brain’s physical state, with no independent causal efficacy ascribed to consciousness. Studies suggest there may be negative social consequences to widespread popular belief that our thoughts are passive spectators to our behavior. Dissenting from the commonly held view, the psychologist William James argued that consciousness must serve some evolutionary purpose, and therefore must be efficacious. But how might something as insubstantial as a thought cause something to happen in the physical world? According to mechanistic materialism, it cannot. However, there is an alternative to mechanistic materialism. The physicist Stapp argues that a realistic interpretation of quantum theory can form the basis for a scientifically well-founded theory of efficacious conscious choice. The resulting theory of agency fills complementary explanatory gaps in physics and psychology, allowing consciousness to become efficacious in a manner entirely consistent with empirically validated physical theory. The profound implications of a scientifically well-founded theory of non-illusory free will argue for working out a detailed model of its operation in human brains and devising empirical tests of the model’s predictions.


Free will Quantum Zeno effect Neural networks Synchronous neural oscillations 



Acknowledgement is due to Henry Stapp for extensive discussions, explanations, and feedback as the ideas expressed in this paper evolved. Appreciation is extended to participants in the April 2018 International Conference on Quanta and the Mind for stimulating discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Systems Engineering and Operations Research DepartmentGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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