Libet-DoWeHaveFreeWill

Libet-DoWeHaveFreeWill - Introduction To Philosophy...

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Introduction To Philosophy Marcello Antosh 2/17/2009 “Do We Have Free Will?” Benjamin Libet 1 Overall Summary Libet considers the question of whether we have free will from an experimental perspective. He designs his experiment to build on a previous experimental result. This previous result was that an electrical charge, known as the Readiness Potential, occurs in the brain about 500 milliseconds before voluntary motor actions (such as the motion of some body part, like the arm). In other words, in this previous experiment, about half a second before the subject voluntarily chose to move some body part, an electrical charge occurred in the part of the subject’s brain which helps control such bodily motions. Given that the Readiness Potential occurs 500 milliseconds before certain voluntary motor actions actually occur, Libet then turns to the question of when the experimental subjects become consciously aware of the desire to perform these voluntary motor actions. In particular, Libet was curious about whether the subjects became consciously aware of the desire to voluntarily perform these motor actions after the occurrence of the Readiness Potential or not after it. The results of Libet’s experiment were that, on average, subjects became aware of the conscious desire to voluntarily perform the motor action (in this case, moving one’s wrist) about 300 milliseconds after the occurrence of the Readiness Potential, which was about 200 milliseconds before the actual motion of the wrist. Roughly, Libet seems to interpret these results as follows: The experiment shows that the subjects have free will, but that the role of free will is much more limited than originally thought. For, the process that initiates these voluntary motor actions occurs unconsciously, without the subject’s awareness. Because of this, the subjects didn’t really choose to initiate these voluntary actions. Rather, the subjects only chose to allow them to occur. So, although they never consciously chose to initiate the motor action, they could have consciously chosen to stop these motor actions from occurring, but did not. Because they can consciously allow or prevent these motor actions from occurring, they have free will. Although this is how Libet interprets the results of his experiment, it is far from clear that his interpretation is correct. 1
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Introduction To Philosophy Marcello Antosh 2/17/2009 2 Motivation For Libet’s Experiment Libet designs his experiment to build on the results of a previous one. In this previous experiment is was found that an electrical charge, called the Readiness Potential , occurs in the supplementary motor cortex brain about 500 milliseconds before voluntary motor actions—such as the movement of a wrist, arm, finger, leg, etc. (The supplementary motor cortex is a part of the brain which helps to regulate motor action.) If the results of this previous experiment can be generalized (that is, if they apply to all or most motor actions, and not just those tested in the experiment itself),
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Libet-DoWeHaveFreeWill - Introduction To Philosophy...

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