The folk psychology of free will: Fits and starts

Shaun Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


According to agent-causal accounts of free will, agents have the capacity to cause actions, and for a given action, an agent could have done otherwise. This paper uses existing results and presents experimental evidence to argue that young children deploy a notion of agent-causation. If young children do have such a notion, however, it remains quite unclear how they acquire it. Several possible acquisition stories are canvassed, including the possibility that the notion of agent-causation develops from a prior notion of obligation. Finally, the paper sets out how this work might illuminate the philosophical problem of free will.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-502
Number of pages30
JournalMind and Language
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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