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Libet and Free Will Revisited


skado 9 Dec 31

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We deliberate or ruminate upon stuff when we have that luxury, so rapidly timed events as in Libet are too limited in scope. I kinda like Frankfurt’s notion of desirability of desire and Dennett’s allusion to deliberative self-control. But I think free will is a crappy term and we should instead focus on deliberation and impulse control. Libet’s experiment seems to be targeted at the impulsive level.

Free will isn’t free in the metabolic sense, which shows that all thought and behavior relies upon the currency of ATP. Though I dislike him Sam Harris had pointed to how much further the decision cascade goes than Libet based on fMRI studies. And Daniel Wegner had done a wonderful job showing how we are outside the causal loop of our decision making processes and yet still claim authorship over our actions.

And however much control we think we might exercise in the here and now we are still at the mercy of stuff way outside our control (attributed to luck and fate). Granting too much weight to volition goes along with blaming people for their circumstances and overplaying moral responsibility.


From tapping one's fingers to, say, decide on a career path (just one instance) is not the same thing in any way shape or form IMO!

My sentiments exactly.

Good point, but there’s so much happening outside our awareness (unconsciously) that then becomes apparent to us and we think we had a choice in the result. I had read recency of last meal influences a judge’s rulings for instance. And when we drive so much happens as autopilot that would be more awkward if we tried to assert conscious control over every detail. Maybe the choice to go to the supermarket is up to us, but many of the split second decisions of getting there operate below the surface, coming from years of training realized as procedural memory.

@Scott321Training/procedural memory i can see, for sure, but that would not actually be an example for or against the concept of Free Will, would it?

The procedural thing points to how much lies below the surface. As for our notion of free will, I would prefer breaking it down to actual things like deliberation, self-control, and well ordered desires as Dennett had done.

Today ironically is the most popular day of the year for taking stock of our desires by making resolutions and trying to put impulsive behavior in check. Is it desirable to eat desserts from a well being standpoint, etc. I’ve resolved to eat a more veggie oriented diet. So far so good.

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