This is my third post on the topic of FREE WILL.
May 2nd – May 4th 2012. I participated in the IV International Scientific Congress dealing with Neuroethics organized in Padua (Italy) by the University of Padua itself, together with the Italian Society of Neuropsychology, the Italian Society of Moral Philosophy and the Italian Society of Psychiatry.
Professor Giuseppe Sartori and Doctor Andrea Lavazza were the organizers.
The first session focused on Free Will (FW).
Today I want to summarize Adina Roskies’ address titled: Freedom, awareness, and the challenge from cognitive science.
Adina Roskies is a neuroscientist and also a philosopher from Dartmouth College (USA).
Awareness and consciousness plays an important role in folk views of human action, freedom, and responsibility as well.
Your brain makes up its mind up to ten seconds before you realize it, according to researchers. By looking at brain activity while making a decision, the researchers could predict what choice people would make before they themselves were even aware of having made a decision.
Haynes's 2008 study1 modernized the earlier experiment: where Libet's EEG technique could look at only a limited area of brain activity, Haynes's fMRI set-up could survey the whole brain; and where Libet's participants decided simply on when to move, Haynes's test forced them to decide between two alternatives. But critics still picked holes, pointing out that Haynes and his team could predict a left or right button press with only 60% accuracy at best. Although better than chance, this isn't enough to claim that you can see the brain making its mind up before conscious awareness
Brain and cognitive sciences put pressure on these folk views in two main ways:
1. By showing conscious will not to be effective
2. By showing that we act automatically, and are unaware of the reasons for our actions.
Moving from Libet’s experiments and Haynes’s reproductions using functional magnetic resonance, Adina Roskies argued that:
· Libet-like tasks do not warrant the conclusions many people have drawn
· Other experiments that claims to show that we do not consciously decide our actions cannot be correctly interpreted this way
· Besides, "all it suggests is that there are some physical factors that influence decision-making", which shouldn't be surprising. Philosophers who know about the science, she adds, don't think this sort of study is good evidence for the absence of free will, because the experiments are caricatures of decision-making. Even the seemingly simple decision of whether to have tea or coffee is more complex than deciding whether to push a button with one hand or the other.
Roskies concluded in this way:
No studies to date show that the brain activity determines action prior to and independently of awareness.