This Week’s Mtg: Do We Have Free Will? (9/30/10)

No presentation by me.  If someone wants to open with some remarks, go right ahead.  This topic may be more interesting than some of you think.  It mixes philosophy and science, as the links below demonstrate.  Pretty interesting stuff, actually.

The last two links are from a cool resource, called  They have dozens of blogs on life sciences, physical sciences, medicine, brain and behavior, and even environment and education.  Check them out sometime.

UPDATE:  Comments from John remind me what I forgot.  Free will is not just a neuro/biology question (or at least it doesn’t have to be for purposes of our discussion).  Our discussion may also need to touch on philosophy, religion, metaphysics, etc.  John, thanks for your thoughts.


3 responses

  1. If determinism is true, then there is no reason to believe anything is true, even from the pages of Scientific American. Having no agent causation, the physical reactions of a strictly naturalistic universe means even my typing this is all controlled by physics, not intelligence.

    It removes any morality, and reduces everything…everything to molecules and motion. Having no reason to believe anything is true, just that it is a physical reaction to some event, the idea of strict determinism presents itself with its own defeater, leaving reason to doubt its truth.

  2. PS, the idea that freewill is illusory could not be known, additionally, freewill would not be the only concept which is illusory, the notion of truth would also be an illusion, leaving no reason to believe SA’s analysis.

  3. John makes some excellent points here.

    I think myself the best thing to do would be to drop the term “free will” altogether,
    except in discussions of the history of philosophy and theology, for those who have
    the stomach for that. Instead we might actually focus on concrete problems of how
    do we think and how do we act, to the extent we understand the neurological, cultural
    and social mechanisms involved.

    One should never forget that free will in the W. context is always closely linked
    to Christian theology: God made man free, even though He had perfect knowledge
    of how man would act. You can’t escape the contradiction here, in my view.

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