Recently I came across this interesting research article by Benjamin Libet in Journal of Consciousness Studies (http://www.imprint-academic.com/jcs) captioned "Do we have a Free Will?” Libet, with the help of experiments, shows that our intention to act starts some time before we actually become aware of it. That points towards the fact that humans may not have a free will to act on a stimulus in a particular way.

 

However, further in the article he infers that after the initial unconscious act (readiness potential, RP) consciousness takes over to decide the next part of the action. He cites 'veto action' which human consciousness might resort to in order to make brain react to a stimulus thereby showing no action at all. In other words something suppressed at will. This, he says, shows that after the intention became aware, consciousness took control of the matter.

 

In the section 'Determinism and Free will' towards the end of the article Libet, almost conclusively goes in favour of Free Will theory stating that both the deterministic and the non-deterministic theories were flawed, therefore, it was safe to assume that free will existed.

 

I have the following observations to make:

 

1) Does Libet's non-determinism mean the same as quantum mechanics indeterminism? To me it appears not. Could it then be possible to apply quantum theories in matters of brain which otherwise appear rather deterministic.

 

2) If consciousness were to take control after an initial unconscious act (as during RP), does it supersede brain's bio-chemical actions or it acts subservient to its processes. Could the conscious ‘veto action’ have an unconscious origin as suggested by someone else as cited in the article but not acceptable to Libet?

 

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Tags: Free, determinism, will

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