Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More on Libet and free will

Continuing from my last post on Libet, it is deliciously ironic that people with a reductionistic determinist agenda interpreted his work to prove that free will doesn't exist, when Libet himself made no such claim. Quite the contrary, in the last post he stated unequivocally:

"There has been no evidence, or even a proposed experimental test design, that definitively or convincingly demonstrates the validity of natural law determinism as the mediator or instrument of free will.... In an issue so fundamentally important to our view of who we are, a claim for illusory nature should be based on fairly direct evidence. Such evidence is not available; nor do determinists propose even a potential experimental design to test the theory."

Of those who would make such a case based on his experiments he warns: "Great care should be taken not to believe allegedly scientific conclusions about them which actually depend upon hidden ad hoc assumptions."

And it is doubly ironic that Libet himself assumed free will as a premise. He said in this article, "Can conscious experience affect brain activity?":

" The conscious veto is a control function, different from simply becoming aware of the wish to act.... the veto allows genuine conscious free will to be a controlling agent in the performance of a voluntary act,
even though conscious free will appears not to initiate the volitional process."

But he goes much further in this last article. He said: "Mental phenomena, including conscious experience, cannot be observed by the most complete inspection of the physical brain." It gets weirder. He proposed a conscious mental field (CMF) that  "would be a nonphysical field, in the sense that it could not be directly observed or measured by any external physical means.... It proposes a mode of intracerebral
communication they can proceed without requiring neural pathways." But "the CMF does not exist without the living brain, and is an emergent property of that brain."

Fascinating indeed that we don't hear any of this side of Libet from those who are certain his work debunks free will, caught up in their own "hidden ad hoc assumptions."

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