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Neuroscience and free will – another one!

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PHILOSOPHY BOWLING RESULTS

• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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Now here is an interesting article. I know, the very idea of brain implants ‘boosting’ free will sounds confused on various levels. But consider the phenomenon. Some subjects report the inner feeling of having lost free will – not being able to get up and do what they feel like doing. Various supplements are made available to help these people execute their desired actions. I think the right question to ask is, What is the conception of free will, such that subjects feel they don’t have it, and then they do? And does this have anything at all to do with the concept of causal determinism?

An interesting excerpt:

One depression patient participating in a 2008 University of Toronto study had responded well to DBS, but experienced a return of his symptoms after a battery in the pulse generator ran out. ‘I’m just happy it wasn’t me, that it was the battery,’ he remarked. This is a misunderstanding: it was not the malfunctioning pulse generator but faulty circuits in his brain that were causing his depression. Understandably, his comment reflected a desire to believe that he and not the device was in control of his mood and actions. Yet the fact is that DBS does not replace the person as the agent. Instead, it is an enabling device whose modulating effects on dysfunctional brain circuits return this control to him. It does not matter whether our mental states and actions are generated and sustained by a natural or an artificial system such as DBS, HP or BCI. Provided that these systems connect in the right way with neural inputs and outputs that regulate our minds and bodies, they can ensure that the person in whom they are implanted is in control.

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