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The Adaptive Unconscious, Free Will and Morality


Admission requirements

This course is open to third year bachelor students from other departments with a strong philosophical interest disclosed by previously concluded courses and/or written papers.
Toehoorders / à la carte-studenten hebben alleen toegang tot deze cursus met toestemming van de docent.


Behavioural, cognitive and neuroscientists discuss the nature and existence of free will, in some cases to declare it non-existent. Philosophers have also discussed free will for centuries and are still divided over the right interpretation of the concept. Hence the question arises what it is these scientist investigate and discuss? Do they side with a specific philosophical interpretation or do they fail to grasp that there are different concepts to choose from?

This course (1) examines the scientific findings thought to be relevant to free will (with a focus on those that can be subsumed under the heading of the adaptive unconscious/dual process theory; (2) examines some of the crucial essays from the contemporary philosophical discussion; and (3) discusses the free will and related issues at the intersection of philosophy and scientific research.

Course objectives

Course objectives will be posted on Blackboard by the start of the course


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2013-2014 , BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject), 3e jaar.
See Timetables Philosophy 2013-2014 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and seminars.

Course load

Attending lectures and seminars: 3 × 14 = 42 hrs
Studying the compulsory literature: 6 × 14 = 84 hrs
Preparing class / assignments: 6 × 14 = 84 hrs
Writing assignment: essay to be presented in a 10 minute talk (max 4000 words) or preparation for written exam = 40 hrs
Preparation presentation/feedback presentations of other students = 30 hrs
Total course load = 280 hrs

Assessment method

  • Presentation and paper or presentation and written exam (70% of final mark);

  • Assignments during the course (30% of final mark).


Intensive use of Blackboard for posting instructions, texts, links, discussions, assignments and so on. Access to Blackboard is a prerequisite to attending and concluding the course.

Reading list

  • Gregg D. Caruso ed., Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (Lexington Books, 2013).

eBook (Kindle-edition) available for 32 dollar, hardcover for 79 dollar or 67 dollar via Blackboard of the course; library book will also be available.


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply. See also Registration for courses and examinations

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs via secretariaat Wijsbegeerte
See also Registration for courses and examinations

Contact information

Prof.dr. M.M.S.K. Sie