Free will (was: Re: Nucleus Accumbens Transplant)

Damien Broderick (
Thu, 03 Dec 1998 11:48:56 +0000

At 01:51 PM 12/2/98 +0100, Anders wrote:

> As I see it free will is a macroscopic property
>of an agent being able to behave in a way that is hard to predict in
>general without simulating the whole agent
>So in my perspective, indeterminism isn't
>necessary for free will. But this can be debated for hours

I must be mad, getting into this. But here's my 2 cents:

If the mind is the brain/body in action, radical indeterminism of the quantal kind *can't possibly* be the source of `free will'. We absolutely do not regard random acts as `free' - in fact, they are as unfree as any acts done under rigid coercion.

The loop-hole in this argument, as I (dimly) understand it, is the sort of story told by non-monists such as Popper and Eccles. If it makes sense to suppose that minds have (or are) a non-physical or `spiritual' component - whatever that might mean - supervenient upon the hardware of the brain, then perhaps quantal uncertainties can provide the entrance point to a neural cascade causing the brain to enter specific states. Of course, this just pushes back the issue of `freedom of the will' into a mysterious impalpable black box, and one for which we have no independent evidence. (But if there is anything to the claims of lab evidence for psi, which I still find provocative [cf. PEAR, Dean Radin, etc], maybe we will be obliged to take into account some such mysterioso realm of being and perhaps consciousness.)

Damien Broderick