Streams

Free Will and the Science of the Brain

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga argues against the common belief that physical laws govern our behavior and that there’s no such thing as free will. In Who’s in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain shows how determinism weakens human responsibility, and he shows that the latest insights into the mind reveal that we are responsible for our actions, not our brains.

Guests:

Michael Gazzaniga

Comments [13]

Ed from Larchmont

The idea that the soul needs the brain and the brain (of course) needs the soul (or mind), that they depend on each other, supports the Catholic belief in the resurrection of the body: the full person includes the body. The soul doesn't have to escape the body in any sense.

Nov. 29 2011 04:48 PM
John A.

"Man's will is free[uncaused] or we're not responsible."
No sarcasm here: I just love that bottom line.

Nov. 29 2011 01:27 PM
rose-ellen from jackson hts.

What a cop out to want our cake and eat it too. Either we have free WILL or we're automatons-there is no middle ground. You can't say that we should be held responsible for our actions even though our actions are simply determined by our inique brains[and their interactions with the world].To hold people responsible when you believe they can't help what they do is dishonest.[a cop out].It is to aquiese to playing a game that you know is a game while others believe it is real.[responssibility]. Though our wants and feelings are determined [we can't help it if we're thirthy or if we believe in God or if we like jazz] our ACTIONS must be UNCAUSED or we are not responsible.A REASON [I'm feeling thirty so a drink ] is NOT a CAUSE[I may choose to give my drink to someone else] and if our will is caused and not free then we are automatons and cannot be held responsible. I believe our will is UNCAUSED though our reasons are determined[by our experiences,biology environment, history, brain and genetics ] Within those contrainst our will is still free[uncaused].I can't help feeling thirsty and I can't help that I was taught to believe that altturism is better then selfishness and I can't help if I actually believe that to be true but within those deteminents ether I am free to choose to will to act on my [caused beliefs] or I am not. If i am not free to choose alturism [in this case] then I am not responsible for being alturistic and giving my drink to someone else who is thirsty. My will to choose what to do given my feelings and beliefs which are determined by experiences ,genetics brain connections etc] still must be UNCAUSED or I am an automaton. There is no way around that.I think therefore i am and i am always free to choose[will] even within the contraints of my wants, likes and beiefs which are determined by my brain, experiences etc.].Man's will is free[uncaused] or we're not responsible

Nov. 29 2011 01:17 PM
John A.

Science displaces philosophy in the minds of the less educated and the young, if not commenter Brian.

Nov. 29 2011 12:31 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Screaming & covering your eyes doesn't seem like a very good survival response to seeing a snake, or one w/much evolutionary value!

Nov. 29 2011 12:28 PM
brian from manhattan

Sorry left out a phrase

Science has not displaced philosophy. In fact, I continually find that philosophers are often scientifically literate, whereas scientists are rarely philosophically literate. The result is this: scientists like Dr. Gazzaniga extrapolate less from contemporary knowledge of the brain, than earlier philosophers like William James-who was also a physiologist-extrapolate from the relatively primitive knowledge of the brain from his own time. If you don't believe me, read, James's "The Dilemma of Determinism," written a century ago.

Nov. 29 2011 12:21 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Do right- & left-handed people perform differently on the test w/the name of one color shown in letters of a different color (e.g., "blue" in red letters)?

Nov. 29 2011 12:20 PM
Mike from NYC

Doesn't the apparent conflict over free will and responsibility derive from the tradition of over valuing and over simplification of consciousness? To say that my brain uses unconscious processes to make decisions does not deny that it is after all my brain, and therefore the outcome of the decision is my responsibility. Similarly, my free will may be beyond my consciousness, but is still my free will.

Nov. 29 2011 12:19 PM
Brian from Manhattan

Science has not displaced philosophy. In fact, I continually find that philosophers are often scientifically literate, whereas scientists are not. The result is this: scientists like Dr. Gazzaniga extrapolate less from contemporary knowledge of the brain, than earlier philosophers like William James-who was also a physiologist-extrapolate from the relatively primitive knowledge of the brain from his own time. If you don't believe me, read, James's "The Dilemma of Determinism," written a century ago.

Nov. 29 2011 12:18 PM
Bernard from Bronx

Suicide, practiced only humans, is an act of
ultimate freedom, freedom from life. And how about monks who take vows of chastity that go
against the biological determinism of survival through procreation.

Nov. 29 2011 12:12 PM
Peter from Manhattan

You don't need neuroscience to debunk free will. In the 19th century, Schopenhauer argued quite convincingly that the very notion of free will is absurd. In a nutshell, you can do what you want, but you can't want what you want.

That doesn't mean that everybody gets a free pass. There still have to be consequences for bad behavior. It does mean, however, that we need to determine those consequences in a dispassionate way, letting go of moral outrage and focusing on outcomes instead. That would be a huge improvement.

Nov. 29 2011 11:33 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Consciousness, memory, and reason (intellect) and free will are faculties of the soul. The brain carries out the free decisions of the soul, it's its tool. So decisions show up in the brain, but the brain doesn't cause them. But a materialist has to say that the brain causes them.

Nov. 29 2011 08:13 AM
Brenda from New York City

I will be tuning in to hear Michael Gazzaniga. It seems the trend in mitigating personal responsibility is only gaining momentum. Every time an obsession is labeled as an addiction we, as a society, are determining we are powerless over the behavior. Free will should be empowering, not feared. www.HereSheIsBoys.com

Nov. 29 2011 07:29 AM

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