III ICPN - JUNE 21ST TO 25TH, 2021

Free Will, Agency and Ethical Implications

Do we have free will? Or is free will a systematic illusion? How free are we (if we are so, at least to some extent)? Do different people have different levels of self-control, freedom and responsibility? Do different actions have different degrees of authorship? Does decision neuroscience weaken, strengthen or, merely, reaffirm our current moral and legal views regarding agency, responsibility, liability, imputability and blameworthiness? Do planning, rationality, intentions and emotions play a causal role in our decision-making processes? To which (or what) extent (if any) is free will a still valid starting point, in view of our state-of-the-art in neuroscience? Is such an idea, taken (by many) as foundational to the western civilization since the advent of monotheistic religions, still meaningful? Is such a concept, present in the history of philosophy as a classical conundrum, still a viable premise?

Neuroscience is one of the research areas with greatest progress in recent times on a world scale. However, there is still a lack of understanding of the ethical, moral and legal implications of its discoveries, as well as of the scope of epistemic validity of its findings. Philosophy of neuroscience has the key role of addressing foundational considerations of the aforementioned issues, bringing ethical and epistemic criteria into debate. Beyond the advances in the academic production of philosophy of neuroscience, developing a better understanding of specific subjects as free will, agency and their ethical implications brings about also positive practical repercussions as, for example: creation of public and private policies in legal, economic and medical areas. It yields updates in the debate on the rationality of action from a more realistic point of view, aware of the potentialities and limitations of the decision-making processes involved in human action. Foundational concepts in law, such as responsibility, imputability, etc. can be better understood in light of such debates. Equally, important notions applied in economics, such as ‘fast and frugal’ or rational and optimal choices, hyperbolic vs exponential discounts, depend on the understanding of the issues which we investigated in this meeting.

The III International Colloquium on Philosophy of Neuroscience had the honor of receiving keynotes speakers Adina Roskies (Dartmouth College), Marcel Brass (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), José Manuel Muñoz (Universidad de Navarra), Peter Ulric Tse (Dartmouth College), Santiago Amaya (Universidad de Los Andes), Jonathan S. Phillips (Dartmouth College), Jennifer Chandler (University of Ottawa), Uri Maoz (Chapman University), Thomas Nadelhoffer (College of Charleston), and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke University), as well as Gabriel Mograbi (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro), Renato César Cardoso (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), Matheus Mesquita Silveira (Pós-Graduação em Filosofia da Universidade de Caxias do Sul), Gilberto Lourenço Gomes (Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense Darcy Ribeiro), Beatriz Sorrentino Marques (Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso), Brunello Souza Stancioli (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), Cinara Maria Leite Nahra (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte), Eduardo Vicentini de Medeiros (Universidade Federal de Santa Maria), Marcelo Fischborn (Instituto Federal de Educação Ciência e Tecnologia Farroupilha), Noel Struchiner (Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro), and Nythamar de Oliveira (Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul).

We aimed for the event to be a turning point in the philosophical and scientific production in the area in Brazil and Latin America in general. Not only more established researchers benefitted from this process of exchange of knowledge and collaboration; likewise, young researchers were given the opportunity to be part of an international research network.

In 2021, the International Colloquium on Philosophy of Neuroscience had an online-only edition, due to the Covid pandemic, and a hybrid edition with an in-person schedule in Rio de Janeiro, both in 2021, respectively considered to be the III (June 21st to 25th) and IV (December 6th to 10th) editions of the International Colloquium. These editions of the event were a significant qualitative and quantitative improvement on the previous editions, featuring an increased number of renowned international speakers and reaching a larger national and international audience.