Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Deep Thoughts from a Neuroscientist

I think we will get over the idea of free will and and accept we are a special kind of machine, one with a moral agency which comes from living in social groups. This perspective will make us ask new kinds of questions.

Link to Neuroscientist Gazzaniga's interview.



Bubba said...

So he's arguing that because we cannot observe on a neurological level something like free choice, it doesn't exist? That ultimately, we can express what we see as free choice as a series of neurochemical reactions too sophisticated and unique for them to be of any use in social applications? Or that we should pay attention to our brain glucose levels before making the decision to waste time posting to blogs?

Oh, and he made reference to the Flat Earth error too, revealing the extend of his competence to speak about social phenomena.

Anonymous said...

"It is futile to feign indifference concerning inquiries whose object cannot be indifferent to human nature. Moreover, however much those alleged indifferentists try to disguise themselves... they inevitably fall back—insofar as they think anything at all—into metaphysical assertions, the very assertions they claimed to despise so much."

—Immanuel Kant, CPR, First Preface

Crude said...

Doesn't he completely misrepresent Leibniz's mill? I've never heard it presented as Leibniz saying 'if you walk around inside of a mill you can't deduce its function by examining its parts'.

I also think he gives emergence an odd treatment. Emergence as widely accepted? It depends on what's meant by emergence, and certainly on whether emergent language is merely pragmatic or non-reductive.

Finally, his martian example is the sort which always annoys me. That entire paragraph basically boils down to "Look, I'm right. And if super-advanced martians who knew everything landed on the planet tomorrow, they would say "Gazzaniga is right!"." Someone could play the opposite game: Martians land on the earth tomorrow and say, "Hey, humans are getting it. They realize that their scientific theories can't be complete, since they can't adequately account - in and of themselves - for free will, consciousness, and more. They must be supplemented. They're well on their way."

01010101 said...

The point on the Martian would tend to bother dogmatists, but is quite reasonable. Ie, "free will" whatever it is, is not axiomatic knowledge. It's an inference--or speculation-- not prima facie obvious, and at odds with ordinary science.

01010101 said...

ah it's Crude...a shaleighleigh if there e'r was one

Michael Sullivan said...

Free will is not at odds with "ordinary science" but with the metaphysical assumptions of some ordinary scientists.

Free will is the power to choose between opposites. The human body has the power to perform opposite functions, i.e. to pick up the cup or to remain at rest and not pick up the cup. Either one is compatible with the body's skeleton, musculature, strength, etc. So what determines whether I pick up the cup or not? "Ordinary science" can point to many of the physical causal elements that go into picking up the cup or remaining at rest. But in the end I pick up the cup because I decide to. That's it. Science neither proves nor disproves that the decision happens because the decision is in principle not observable with scientific instruments. That shouldn't bother us though. "Ordinary science" can't tell the difference between philosophy and gibberish.

01010101 said...

You decide where to go to lunch. But you don't decide whether you are hungry or not. You are! (ie, enzymes trigger a certain impulse in the heurology, etc). While I would not ...argue for strict determinism (usually), decisions are compelled, more or less (or coerced in some instances) However quaint, what's taken to be "free will" is more akin to...Hobbes' volition than the pure spook of Freiheit.

01010101 said...

neurology. hur-ology?

Which is to say, some of us were taught Hobbes' moves contra Descartes.