Category Archive: Free will

Nov 22 2010

On free will-10: Ethical and legal implications of free will as simply a veto power

(For previous posts in this series, see here.) The idea suggested by Benjamin Libet that what we call free will is not the popularly assumed ability to decide all our seemingly deliberate (as opposed to instinctive) actions but consists of the more limited ability to either let the predetermined action be completed or to veto …

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Nov 19 2010

On free will-9: Attempts to salvage free will

(For previous posts in this series, see here.) People who are determined to keep the Ghost in the Machine alive still have a few options. Ironically, although it was Libet’s early experiments that cast doubt on the idea that we have free will, he himself was disturbed by that implication and has sought to find …

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Nov 17 2010

On free will-8: The 1983 and later experiments of Benjamin Libet

(For previous posts in this series, see here.) In 1983, Benjamin Libet and his associates did some experiments that were similar to the 1963 Grey Walter experiment but with the added feature that the patients could observe the equivalent of a clock and thus note when they made the decision to act. This enabled a …

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Nov 16 2010

On free will-7: How reliable a historian is the brain?

(For previous posts in this series, see here.) In post #6 in this series, I discussed the 1963 Grey Walter experiment in which patients who had electrodes implanted in their brain’s motor cortex that could send a signal to advance a slide were surprised that the projector seemed to anticipate their decision to advance the …

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Nov 15 2010

On free will-6: The 1963 Grey Walter experiment

(For previous posts in this series, see here.) In the previous post, I provided a schematic description of two models of how the brain works, one with free will and the other without it. The traditional brain model with free will is given by (D) GES ↓ will → conscious thoughts → unconscious neural activity …

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Nov 12 2010

On free will-5: Models of how the brain works

(For previous posts in this series, see here.) It is time to look at specific models of how the brain works. In the previous post, I pointed to a paper by biologist Anthony Cashmore which argues that our brains are the product of genes (G), environment (E), and stochastic (i.e., random) processes (S). This GES …

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Nov 11 2010

On free will-4: The implications of modern physics for determinism

(For previous posts in this series, see here.) The possibility of the existence of Lucretian random swerves that destroy determinism received a boost in the early twentieth century with the advent of quantum mechanics and its associated uncertainty principle that eliminated strict classical determinism. Believers in free will seized on the inherent randomness built into …

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Nov 10 2010

On free will-3: Free will and determinism

(For previous posts in this series, see here.) Defining what is meant by free will is not easy. In a loose sense it implies a denial of strict determinism, in which all our actions are completely determined by the past and the immediate environment we find ourselves in. The philosopher John Searle describes free will …

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Nov 09 2010

On free will-2: The Ghost in the Machine

(For previous posts in this series, see here.) The philosopher Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) didn’t think much of Rene Descartes’ idea of a disembodied mind, using its free will, acting as some kind of captain of the body, and coined the derogatory term ‘the Ghost in the Machine’ for it. There is a doctrine about the …

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Nov 08 2010

On free will-1: Cartesian dualism and the Cartesian Theater

It’s been awhile since I inflicted on this blog’s readers a long multi-part series of posts but I have decided to look at the question of free will, something that I have not addressed before, and this is such a weighty and controversial subject that it requires a somewhat lengthy discussion. It used to be …

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