does neuroscience deny free will?


I assume that right now, you are not following these words because there is a gun pointed at your head or you’ve been hypnotised. Until such time as a benign dictator makes reading the FT compulsory, it seems the most self-evident fact in the world that people who buy it do so of their own free will. Yet for centuries there have been those who have argued that “seems” is all there is to this feeling of freedom. Advances in neuroscience have given the free will deniers new impetus. The ace in the pack is the work of the late Benjamin Libet, which neuroscientist Sam Harris says in Free Will shows that “some moments before you are aware of what you will do next … your brain has already determined what you will do. You then become conscious of this ‘decision’ and believe that you are in the process of making it.” For the likes of Harris, evidence like this shows that the absence of free will is now scientific fact, not philosophical theory. But as other new books on the same issue show, it’s far more complicated than that.

more from Julian Baggini at the FT here.