Gregg D. Caruso is Associate Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Corning and Co-Director of the Justice Without Retribution Network housed at the University of Aberdeen School of Law. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from William Paterson University and his M.Phil and Ph.D. in Philosophy from the City University of New York, Graduate Center. He is the author of Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will (2012), and the editor of Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (ed., 2013), Science and Religion: 5 Questions (ed., 2014), and Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience (co-ed. w/Owen Flanagan, 2017). He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including the SUNY Chancellors Award for Excellence in Scholarship (2015) and the Regional Board of Trustees Excellence in Teaching Award (2012). He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Science, Religion and Culture, an Associate at the Institute of Applied Ethics (IAE) at the University of Hull, and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.
Dr. Caruso's research interests include free will, moral responsibility, criminal punishment, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science. His most recent work focuses on the problem of free will, non-retributive approaches to criminal behavior, moral responsibility, reference, and the phenomenology of freedom. His broader work engages issues at the intersection of the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences. He is especially interested in theoretical accounts of consciousness and what recent developments in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences can tell us about human agency and free will. His research also explores the implications of free will skepticism for ourselves, society, morality, meaning, and the law. As an optimistic skeptic he maintains that, not only can we preserve meaning, morals, and purpose without belief in free will and desert-based moral responsibility, but that we would be better off without such beliefs. [See his TEDx talk on The Dark Side of Free Will.] He is currently working on a new book titled Unjust Deserts: Free Will, Moral Responsibility, and Criminal Punishment.
His other interests include science and religion, neuroethics, neurolaw, social and political philosophy, and moral psychology.
Additional activities: President of Southwestern Philosophical Society (SWPS), contributor to the blog Flickers of Freedom, Assessing Editor for The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Editorial Advisory Board for Southwest Philosophy Review, and TEDx speaker.
My primary research interests, broadly construed, are situated at the crossroads of metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and applied ethics. While I have distinct research projects in each of these areas, a unifying theme that connects all of my work is my interest in free will, moral responsibility, and criminal punishment.
In metaphysics, I am primarily interested in the traditional free will debate, including questions about powers, causation, and the metaphysics of mind. Within the debate, I defend a version of free will skepticism that maintains that what we do and the way we are is ultimately the result of factors beyond our control and because of this we are never morally responsible for our actions in the basic desert sense—the sense that would make us truly deserving of blame and praise in a non-consequentialist, backward-looking sense. I initially laid out my arguments for free will skepticism in Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will (2012) and have subsequently published extensively on the subject.
I also have research interests in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. In particular, I am interested in theoretical accounts of consciousness and recent developments in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences. In Free Will and Consciousness, I explored these issues at great length and defended a variant of the higher-order thought theory of consciousness. My work continues to explore the relationship between consciousness and free will as well as purely theoretical matters in the philosophy of mind. I have particular research interests in cognitive neuroscience, the timing of conscious will, and empirical work in psychology and social psychology on automaticity, situationism, and implicit bias.
In applied ethics, I am currently engaged in a number of research projects. These include developing a non-retributive alternative to criminal punishment and exploring the practical implications of free will skepticism for society, morality, meaning, and the law. As an optimistic skeptic, I maintain that life without free will and basic desert moral responsibility would not be as destructive as many people believe. Prospects of finding meaning in life or of sustaining good interpersonal relationships, for example, would not be threatened. And although retributivism and severe punishment, such as the death penalty, would be ruled out, preventive detention and rehabilitation programs would still be justified. Building on this work, I am currently writing a new book entitled Unjust Deserts: Free Will, Moral Responsibility, and Criminal Punishment that will systematically explore the implications of free will skepticism and further develop my public health-quarantine model—a non-retributive alternative to criminal behavior. I also have research interests in neuroethics and neurolaw, especially those areas that deal with the social impact of science, medicine, and technology on criminal law and punishment.