Dive into the intriguing world of neuroscience with us as we explore the groundbreaking experiments of Benjamin Libet from the 1980s. Libet's work suggested that our brains initiate movement before we consciously decide to move, sparking a fascinating debate about the existence of free will.
But don't think that Libet was a naysayer of free will. On the contrary, he proposed the concept of "free won't," suggesting that while our actions may be initiated unconsciously, we still retain the conscious ability to veto these actions.
Despite these compelling findings, skeptics argue that Libet's experiments might not be applicable to more complex conscious decisions that involve reasoning.
Join us on this captivating journey through the human mind and its decision-making process. Whether you're a neuroscience enthusiast, a philosophy lover, or just a curious mind, this exploration of free will, or perhaps 'free won't', is sure to pique your interest.
Put your hand in front of you and flex your wrist. You presumably first had a thought, flex my wrist, that then caused your wrist to move. That's how it seems. But Benjamin Libet's experiments in the 1980s have cast some doubt on that. In his neuroscience lab, he wired up subjects to an EEG machine measuring brain activity via electrodes on their scalps, and then asked them to choose to perform a simple hand movement when they felt like it. He also got them to record the time at which they made a conscious decision to move their hands. Disconcertingly, he found evidence of brain activity initiating the movement hundreds of milliseconds before the conscious decision was reported.
In other words, his experiments seemed to show that the conscious decision didn't cause the movement. The brain activity bringing about movement started before the individual willed anything to happen. Some people think this is proof that free will is an illusion, that our conscious decisions are more like reports on what is already happening than the causes of our action. Libet didn't go that far. He thought that we might not have free will, but there's still time for what some have called free won't, a conscious veto of an action that has started in the brain. Others are more skeptical about the implications of these experiments.
They point out difficulties of recording the time of a subjective decision to move, and question whether Libet's findings could apply to more complex conscious decisions based on reasons, such as the decision to reject the claim that Libet's experiments undermine our idea of free will. .