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Do human beings have free will? Show more Show less
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Do we have control over our actions? If we do, what sort of control and to what extent? Free will is the power to act without the constraint of necessity or fate. It is the ability to act at one's own discretion. For centuries, people have wondered how freedom is possible in a world ruled by physical determinism. Reflections on free will have been confined to philosophy until half a century ago, when the topic started also to be seriously investigated by neuroscientists. Today, there are several irreconcilable positions about the existence of human free will.

We don’t know yet - but researchers are trying to find out Show more Show less

The current research into the capacity of our free will is indeterminate.
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Research is underway

While we cannot currently know whether free will truly exists, with the help of researchers we should know soon.
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The Argument

Questions about consciousness and free will are of enduring interest in both philosophy and the sciences[1] and scientists continue to argue about what free will is, whether we have it, and if not, why we ever thought we did in the first place.[2][3] Is everything we do determined by the cause-and-effect chain of genes, environment, and the cells that make up our brain, or can we freely form intentions that influence our actions in the world? The topic is immensely complicated, and there is a need for more precise and better-informed questions.[2] The Brain Institute has received funding that aims to create a new field - the neurophilosophy of free will.[1] This multi-centre research programme teams up neuroscientists and philosophers[4] to address fundamental questions of human experience around free will. Rather than asking whether people have free will, they are trying to get at more nuanced and better-defined questions. How does the brain enable conscious causal control of our actions and decisions? How do conscious intentions lead to actions? Working on Libet’s findings, which have been disproved and then un-disproved,[4] they aim to see whether the results of these Libet-type experiments generalise to more deliberate decisions, which philosophers would tell you are more pertinent to moral responsibility.[4] Learning about how things like volition come about has implications for the legal system, for example, which distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary actions. It also offer guidance for diseases such as Parkinson's, where movement initiation is problematic. If more is understood about how the brain produces self-initiated movements, we may be able to add another layer to the Parkinson’s research.[4]

Counter arguments


[P1] Currently, we cannot know whether free will truly exists. [P2] With new fields of research, we may be able to find out.

Rejecting the premises

Further Reading

Kaiser, D. (2018) Free Will, Video Games, and the Most Profound Quantum Mystery. The New Yorker. Overbye, D. (2007) Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don’t. The New York Times. Lavazza, A. (2016) Free Will and Neuroscience: From Explaining Freedom Away to New Ways of Operationalizing and Measuring It. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10, 262 Gholipour, B. (2019) Philosophers and neuroscientists join forces to see whether science can solve the mystery of free will, Science. Brain Institute Receives Over $7 Million for Research on Neurophilosophy of Free Will.




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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 21 Apr 2020 at 07:47 UTC