Tag Archives | Free Will

Did my brain make me do it? Neuroscience and Free Will (2)

Brain make me do it

This post was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

Part 1.

Discoveries in neuroscience, and the science of behaviour more generally, pose a challenge to the existence of free will. But this all depends on what is meant by ‘free will’. The term means different things to different people. Philosophers focus on two conditions that seem to be necessary for free will: (i) the alternativism condition, according to which having free will requires the ability to do otherwise; and (ii) the sourcehood condition, according to which having free will requires that you (your ‘self’) be the source of your actions. A scientific and deterministic worldview is often said to threaten the first condition. Does it also threaten the second?

That is what Christian List and Peter Menzies article “My brain made me do it: The exclusion argument against free will and what’s wrong with it” tries to figure out.… Read the rest

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The Chemistry of Freedom: Is Free Will an Illusion? [Debate]


The cry of democrats and revolutionaries, we value freedom above almost anything. But neuroscientists claim they can predict decisions seven seconds before we act. Might free will be an illusion? Do we need to reimagine what it means to be human, or does freedom win over bad science?

The Panel

Neuroscientist Patrick Haggard, Templeton Prize winning physicist George FR Ellis and philosopher of mind and action Jennifer Hornsby consider where choice begins and chance ends.

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Capitalism is God’s Will and the Cat Drank all the Milk: How our Language Creates our Biggest Problems and Why We Can’t do Anything about It

Felipe Del Valle (CC BY 2.0)

Felipe Del Valle (CC BY 2.0)

I have a confession to make, one that a good number of readers will find disgusting and emetic and prevent many of them from reading further. Others, however, might relate or find it interesting regardless, and so those people will continue to read, which, I suppose, is good enough for me. You see, when I was a child, from a very early age, probably as early as I can remember, I felt all around me the “Presence of God.” It was and is, in all actuality, an impossible feeling to properly describe, but I suppose to some extent that I could say that I felt some sort of “immanent-transcendent energy” “flowing” through me and through my surroundings. Having lived in a rural area hours away in any direction from something resembling civilization, many of my childhood memories consist of me sitting in the backseat of a Toyota 4Runner driving somewhere else, usually toward civilization somewhere.… Read the rest

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Sense of Free Will Weakens When We Need to Pee or Want Sex

I'm Cold AND I Have To Pee  by Fairy Heart via Flickr.

I’m Cold AND I Have To Pee by Fairy Heart via Flickr.

via io9:

Embodied cognition theory states that our thoughts and emotions are profoundly affected by our physical bodies. A new study takes this idea further, claiming that our bodily states — particularly when they’re urgent — can even influence our metaphysical beliefs.

Unlike Cartesian mind-body dualism, embodied cognition puts forth the notion that the mind is not only connected to the body, but that the body influences the mind. The theory, though controversial, suggests that our cognition, or brain states, are strongly determined by our experiences in the physical world. Indeed, previous studies have shown that our bodily movements and configurations can influence our attitudes.

For example, we enjoy things more when we nod yes, we are happier when we smile, and we suspect that botox injections stunt our ability to feel emotions. In addition, people’s judgements of social closeness can be influenced by room temperature, and their attentional style by the clothes they wear.

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Free Will Is Just An Illusion (Background Noise In The Brain)

NIA human brain drawingThink you can exercise free will? Forget it, that’s just background noise in your brain reports The Independent:

The concept of free will could be little more than the result of background noise in the brain, according to a recent study.

It has previously been suggested that our perceived ability to make autonomous choices is an illusion – and now scientists from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, have found that free will may actually be the result of electrical activity in the brain.

According to the research, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, decisions could be predicted based on the pattern of brain activity immediately before a choice was made.

Volunteers in the study were asked to sit in front of a screen and focus on its central point while their brains’ electrical activity was recorded. They were then asked to make a decision to look either left or right when a cue symbol appeared on the screen, and then to report their decision.

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YouTuber Raps About the Illusion of Free Will As Commentary to Call of Duty Video Game

YouTuber CamperKillerCommentary has released a video in which he raps about scientific experiments that cast doubt on the existence of free will over footage of him – I assume it’s him – playing the popular first-person shooter Call of Duty. And no, I haven’t the foggiest clue how all of this fits together. Apparently it’s the 26th in a series.

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You Think You Have Free Will? Yeah, You Would.

claude_shannon.mouse_in_maze.102630790.lgIndividual people believe that they have free will, and maybe more free will than others.

Via Understanding Human:

An article by Pronin & Kugler (2010) looks at our perceptions of free will, and the fact that we believe we have more free will than others. In their study, they found that people perceived their past and future behaviours as less predictable than the futures of their peers, and that there were more possible ways for their lives to go.

The assumption that they had more possible ways to go is not a result of realistic thinking, but rather it reflected their dreams and intentions, and for this reason, it was true for both college students and restaurant waiters. From a realistic point of view, college students have more possible ways to go compared to restaurant waiters, but they did not tend to think so. They did not claim to have more desirable futures, they only thought to have more possible ways to go.

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You Are Not Just a Machine


“A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.”

– Albert Camus

All words are simplifications of the thing they describe. This is why it’s always possible to say “ah, but it’s more complicated than that” at the end of almost any observation. Such a statement almost goes without saying and is always irritating. Feel free to pop it into the comments section of any online article in the sure knowledge that you are correct.

On the flip side of this is the phrase “it’s just”. Pop this at the bottom of an article only if you wish to be in the sure knowledge that you are wrong. Almost without exception the phrase “it’s just” feeds a lie to both the speaker and the spoken to. … Read the rest

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Free Will, Magick, and Deity

The Infinite and the BeyondPodcast: Episode 027 — Free Will, Magick, and Deity

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In the latest episode of The Infinite and the Beyond, we explore magick and creativity as we speak with the mysterious electronic music composer Alka who was kind of enough to come on the show and share his music with us which is featured throughout the episode. In A Corner in the Occult we learn about famous, mystic, poet, artist, and engraver William Blake. Highly influential to artists and occultists, Blake has been a focus for scholars since his death as he continues to fascinate and inspire new generations. We learn about the phrase, “So Mote It Be” in the Essence of Magick. Have you ever considered the phrase itself and what exactly it implies as a practitioner of magick? Find out in this episode! Also during the show, I read listener email, we hear a great track by Donna Lewis and to close we revisit the ideas of Free Will, Magick, and Deity. Do you have free will in regards to your personal religious theology? If so, what does this mean in how you view deity? Find out this and more in this electronic episode!

To message the show please go here.

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Burundanga: The Drug Against Free Will

BurandangaIt turns out that ‘free will’ is a brain process that can be shut off. Wired UK explores the plant-derived drug — currently all the rage in the South American criminal underworld — that does this:

Burundanga is a scary drug. According to news reports from Ecuador, the last thing a motorist could recall, after waking up minus his car and possessions, was being approached by two women; in Venezuela, a girl came round in hospital to find she had been abducted and sexually assaulted. Each had been doped with burundanga, an extract of the brugmansia plant containing high levels of the psychoactive chemical scopolamine.

News reports allude to a sinister effect: that the drug removes free will, effectively turning victims into suggestible human puppets. Although not fully understood by neuroscience, free will is seen as a highly complex neurological ability and one of the most cherished of human characteristics. Clearly, if a drug can eliminate this, it highlights a stark vulnerability at the core of our species.

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