Home » Mind, Neuroscience, News » Free will is compatible with an “expensive meat” view of the mind?

Free will is compatible with an “expensive meat” view of the mind?

In “Does Contemporary Neuroscience Support or Challenge the Reality of Free Will?” (August 13, 2012), Eddy Nahmias asks the question as if the answer were not a foregone conclusion that it does not. He tries to incorporate free will into a materialist picture of the human being:

One reason it is easy to move from the assumption that neural processes cause behavior to the presumption that consciousness does nothing is that neuroscience still lacks a theory to explain how certain types of brain processes are the basis of conscious or rational mental processes. Without such a story in place, it is easy to assume that neuroscientific explanations supersede and bypass explanations in terms of conscious and rational processes. But that conclusion is unwarranted. Explanations in organic chemistry do not explain away life; they explain life. A more complete scientific theory of the mind will have to explain how consciousness and rationality work, rather than explaining them away. As it does, we will come to understand how and when we have the capacities for conscious and rational choice, and for self-control, that people ordinarily associate with free will. These are the capacities to reflect on our desires and reasons, to consider which of them we want to motivate us, and to make efforts to act accordingly—or as Roy Baumeister explained in his recent post, to habituate ourselves to make choices that accord with our reflectively endorsed goals.

By understanding how the most complex thing in the universe—the human brain—works, we can better understand our capacities to make choices and to control our actions accordingly. On this telling of the tale, neuroscience can help to explain how free will works rather than explaining it away.

Readers can be the judge of whether his approach works.

There’s been a surprising amount of this lately: See, for example, “New neuroscience findings: Free will is back in town?”, on why the Libet experiment is not decisive, as anti-free will advocates claim. On the other side, there is “We must pretend there is free will so as to go on using the language of ethics?

That’s a curious set of contradictions: If we “must pretend” we are lying, but if there is really no free will, we are not capable of lying. Anyway, why should we pretend there is free will either if there isn’t, just to go on using the language of ethics? The language of ethics would be an expendable illusion, perhaps best replaced by some materialist newspeak.

What seems to be happening is that the implications of a materialist view of the mind are closing in on people. They want to keep it, but not its dreadful implications.

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6 Responses to Free will is compatible with an “expensive meat” view of the mind?

  1. Now if they can just ‘explain away’ finding consciousness and free will being integral to quantum theory:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-429647

  2. What a swamp. Everyone has experience thinking before acting and acting before thinking. It takes a first rate idiot to swallow the ‘But it wasn’t me!’ excuse as actuality rather than blame-shifting sophistry.

    Which is only slightly worse than the idea that it makes a difference as to whether we are fully seated in our wetware or whether our wetware is just an interface to something else. Claiming that it is impossible for a toaster to toast on the basis that it interfaces with a hole on the wall; behind which and miles away is the power source.

  3. Maus you don’t understand. You see, the power source is the form of the toaster.

  4. “You see, the power source is the form of the toaster.”

    My apologies. Same argument for a battery powered toaster.

  5. HAHA!

    That’s not exactly what I meant. I was being slightly facetious. I’m using “form” in the Aristotelian sense and hoping vjtorley reads this.

  6. It is impossible to think apart from free will. Every time someone has a thought or expresses that thought (communicates) they are using free will (and intentionality). The idea that free will doesn’t exist is a deduction from a materialist view of the universe. If materialism were true, if everything were explainable by reference to physical laws, then we would not have free will because there is no free will in the laws of physics. But materialism is false. Thought/information/communication cannot be explained by reference to physical laws. I’m just amazed that this keeps coming up again and again.

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