Disbelieving Free Will…

In Wired Science Brandon Keim puts before us, “Disbelieving Free Will Makes Brain Less Free“. He began with, “A test of people who read passages discrediting the notion of free will found an immediate decrease in brain activity related to voluntary action.” The test’s reliance on an electroencephalograph does appear to give it credibility. Bear in mind that his work is a single attempt to take hold of a seeming conundrum! But, could it be that there is something to free will?

Davide Rigoni, the lead psychologist in this bit of research at Italy’s University of Padova, devised a good short run on an inductive peek into what we, perhaps, think free will is. In this brief run of words, I’m asking a somewhat different question. Could it be that we are looking at something that doesn’t fit to our ideas of free will? Might it, also, be that others’ assumption that human behaviors is fully deductively knowable doesn’t encapsulate the whole thing either?

Being willing to ask a simple set of questions that I, for the moment, can not yet fashion an answer to doesn’t immediately disprove the validity of my questions, either. Competently saying the questions are meaningless and so unanswerable requires the ability to deductively demonstrate that there is nothing more needing to be known in nulling the question. Can’t you see my love of circular reasoning in that last sentence? I then think that breaking free of the circle requires our owning the circle.

In line with how I see my own phenomenon, Georg Cantor’s idea of the null set created a similar problem. Most mathematicians, of his time, walked away while thumbing their noses at him. Within a decade those same mathematicians began picking the idea back up. They had begun discovering deep meaning and usefulness well rooted in his simple idea. Likewise, I can’t yet see an answer to my supposition that what isn’t there in our empirical work doesn’t fit because of how we imagine it.

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General, philosophy, psychology, Social

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  1. If I believe in free will, and there is none, then I have no choice but to believe in free will and there is no point in arguing with me…

    Had to say it, even though the pithy little statement does not necessarily hold true. If there were no free will, the following question would have to be: what exists in its stead? The most obvious choices are God-directed fate and pure reaction to external stimuli. Of course, both can exist alongside free will, which only confuses the issue more.

    For the “reaction to external stimuli” argument, some seem to take the approach that free will would require the ability to do anything without the confining restraints of environment. Any infringement on choice by the environment, by this argument, negates the concept of free will entirely. On the religious side, the argument is similar. Either free will gives us the ability to do anything without any restraint from the will of God, or free will does not exist.

    Personally, I believe we have free will, but that the choices open to that will are limited both by environment and by divine will.

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