Talk:Free will/Archive1

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A hastily contructed article on free will. Please edit, tidy and modify as you see fit.--Graham 07:15, 17 September 2007 (EDT)

Thanks for the interesting piece!--PalMD-Oy, mein tukhas! 19:48, 17 September 2007 (EDT)

practical use of free will[edit]

Syamsu's edit[edit]

A Knotty Tread[edit]

I have completely re-written this section because it was variously vague or wrong. Peterdjones (talk) 16:40, 25 July 2011 (UTC)


"Rationalists can consistently take any of them[citation needed], although some are more popular than others." That's a cite that will never be found, and I'd say "rationalists" can both consistently and inconsistently take any of them. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 02:44, 11 October 2011 (UTC)


I heard some criticisms of the Benjamin Libet experiment mentioned in the article.

Alfred Mele has criticized the interpretation of the Libet results on two grounds. First, the mere appearance of the RP a half-second or more before the action in no way makes the RP the cause of the action. It may simply mark the beginning of forming an intention to act. In the two-stage model [of first generating multiple possible choices and then evaluating them before making a decision], it is the considering of possible options.

Libet himself argued that there is enough time after the W moment (a window of opportunity) to veto the action, but Mele's second criticism points out that such examples of "free won't" would not be captured in Libet experiments, because the recording device is triggered by the action (typically flicking the wrist) itself.

Thus, although all Libet experiments ended with the wrist flicking, we are not justified in assuming that the rise of the RP (well before the moment of conscious will) is a cause of the wrist flicking. Libet knew that there were very likely other times when the RP rose, but which did not lead to a flick of the wrist.
this site

A few questions:

  1. Are these two criticisms legit, or are they BS?
  2. Does this "window of opportunity" after the W moment really exist, or can it simply be explained as the nervous impulses taking a non-zero amount of time getting to the muscles in the wrist or finger?
  3. Is there an alternative explanation of the results of the Libet experiment?

I'm trying to figure this out myself, but I feel that your inputs and discussions would help me evaluate these claims. Discuss. The Heidelberg Kid (talk) 01:04, 16 February 2012 (UTC)

Libet himself said more or less the same thing later on. See his cited paper in Journal of Consciousness Studies. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 01:18, 16 February 2012 (UTC)

Why do people think Libet's work "disproves" free will?[edit]

The determinists' reasoning on this seems to be as follows:

  1. Libet has shown that a decision is unconsciously made some time before it is consciously detected by the nerves in the brain.
  2. Therefore, free will does not exist.

QED, right?

  1. Neuroscience has shown tha

t light hits the retina some time before it is consciously detected by the nerves in the brain.

  1. Therefore, sight does not exist.
  2. However, sight exists, therefore, 2 cannot be concluded from 1 with a scientific perspective.

Reductio ad absurdum. Libet's experiment does not disprove free will, with both this and the "free won't" interpretation. Should we include this in the main article, or is my logic flawed somehow? Don't want to add it if it's flawed. Constructive criticism welcome. The Heidelberg Kid (talk) 19:09, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

It doesn't disprove free will, but I'd say it provides some evidence that, in the very least, we are not fully in charge of our own 'decisions'. GodothasArrived (super crazy fun time!) 19:12, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
And, by the way, your logic is flawed. One, you could make an argument that free will is the conscious choosing of one out of two or more possible choices, and if our subconscious makes our decisions for us, then we cannot have free will (which I suspect is the argument most of the people you're supposedly refuting are making). Two, we know sight exists, but we don't know free will exists. An American Fallacy (super crazy fun time!) 19:20, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
It's a bit of neuroessentialism. It demonstrates an unconscious mechanism in one task, but it doesn't generalize to a whole swath of other types of decisions (though there are unconscious mechanisms involved in all types of decision-making, this paper alone doesn't demonstrate that). Again, see Libet's own interpretation above. — Unsigned, by: Nebuchadnezzar / talk / contribs
Either way, there are much better arguments for the non-existence of free will. An American Fallacy (super crazy fun time!) 19:25, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

Trying again.[edit]

Okay, trying to say what my point was with this. Some determinists say, by the article's own admission, that they think Libet's experiment disproved free will, as the decision was made unconsciously before. To rephrase my initial argument:


  1. In Libet's experiment, it was found that a decision is made some milliseconds before it is consciously percieved.
  2. From Item 1, we can conclude free will, i.e. the ability to consciously pick one course of action out of one or more alternatives, does not exist.

The basic form of the argument is:

  1. X occurs some milliseconds before the relevant information is consciously percieved.
  2. It is commonly believed A, that is that Y is the conscious perception of X.
  3. Therefore from Items 1 and 2, A is false.

Rephrasing the determist argument, we get:

  1. Decision-making occurs some milliseconds before the relevant information is consciously percieved.
  2. It is commonly believed A, that is that free will is the conscious perception of decision-making.
  3. Therefore from Items 1 and 2, free will is false (read "does not exist").

I am plugging in different values for X and Y so:

  1. Light hits the retina some milliseconds before the information is consiously detected.
  2. It is commonly believed A, that is that sight is the conscious perception of light hitting the retina.
  3. Therefore from Items 1 and 2, sight is false (read "does not exist").

Via reductio ad absurdum, there is no way to get around this without special pleading. Could somebody point out if my logic is flawed? I am trying to figure out any flaws on my own, and if I find any, I will modify/retract my argument as necessary. I am not trying to say that free will exists, but simply that this one "evidence" against free will and the reasoning behind it, is flawed. The Heidelberg Kid (talk) 15:27, 7 March 2012 (UTC)

Syamsu's rewrite[edit]

  1. Harrison-Barbet, Anthony. "WILLIAM of OCKHAM". "we can have no knowledge of an immaterial soul; nor can we prove its existence philosophically. Instead we must rely on revealed truth and faith" 
  2. Yaffe, Gideon and Nichols, Ryan. "Thomas Reid". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition. "Reid staunchly refuses to speculate on the substance of the self,...he describes souls as beings of a quite different Nature than material bodies" 
  3. Epigenetics Offers New Solution to Some Long-Standing Theological Problems: Inherited Sin, Christ’s Sinlessness, and Generational Curses Can be Explained By Norman L. Geisler, 2010
  4. Dikötter, Frank. "Throw-Away Babies". Times Literary Supplement,. "Whether the regulation of sexuality has replaced ideological control as the main tool of repression in the People's Republic is an important question which is open to debate. It is beyond question, however, that the signs of a drift towards an authoritarian form of government guided by biological imperatives have been accumulating in China for some time, and anybody with a serious interest in that country and its people should consider the implications of that drift carefully." 
  8. Taborsky, Edwina. [ "Biological Organisms as Semiosic Systems: the importance of strong and weak anticipation"]. Signs vol. 2: pp. 146-187, 2008 ISSN: 1902-8822. "a framework that rejects anticipation and is instead based around a primary random or uninformed mutation of a single model supported by a post hoc ‘natural selection’ of that model – is an inadequate analysis. The semiosic biological system is not a random or mechanical process but an informed, reasoned and selfcontrolled process. pp 161" 
  9. Torley, Vincent. "Anatomy of a minimal mind". philosophy department University of Melbourne. "Dennett, on the other hand, regards the attribution of intentionality to thermostats as more than metaphorical: he argues that if we are to explain what all thermostats have in common, we “have to rise to … a level that invokes belief-talk and desire-talk or … semantic information-talk and goal-registration-talk 1995a."