The notion that human beings possess free will is fundamental to the world’s ethical and religious systems and remains deeply embedded in how we conceive of ourselves. It is free will that allows us to engage in self-directed and intentional activity, which in turn makes us moral agents, susceptible to praise or blame for our actions. Free will allows us to be sources of genuine novelty and creativity, and for some, it is what makes us most resemble the divine.
Recent research in a number of fields, however, has challenged the reality of free will. Neuroscientists claim to have shown, for example, that the genesis of action in the brain begins well before conscious awareness of that action. And social psychologists have suggested that human behavior arises not from conscious beliefs but from behavioral scripts activated by particular environmental conditions. Both scenarios point to free will as an illusion of human self-perception.
The Foundation’s 2010 Funding Priority on “Finding Free Will” encourages researchers to investigate both our limits and our potential as agents by focusing on free will as a product of human evolution and on the ways in which free will can be enhanced by education and active moral formation and diminished by certain biological, psychological, or social conditions. Applicants are asked to address one or more of the following Big Questions:
Budget range and term for individual projects: From $50,000 to $250,000 and for up to two years.
Note: Applicants for this 2010 Funding Priority should be aware that the Foundation is also supporting a multidisciplinary research project on the subject of free will at Florida State University (find details here). Applicants are urged to review the topics and requirements for both initiatives in order to decide which program is more appropriate for their proposed project.