Relationship between consciousness and free will

Consciousness Can Exist without Free Will

relationship between consciousness and free will

“By this it appears how necessary it is for any man that aspires to true Knowledge , to examine the Definitions of former Authors; and either to correct them, where. A common mistake associated with the idea of free will not existing is people thinking such follows to the conclusion that consciousness doesn't. I would recommend looking into Professor Bennet Helm. Free will and the nature of how we define it is his primary academic study. Link to item description.

Suppose you are a neuroscientist who is seeking to discover what goes on in the brains and bodies of people when their fingers move.

Assume that through your experimental work you find out that on occasions when people move their fingers, there are nerve impulses that reach appropriate muscles and make those muscles contract with the result that their fingers move.

These nerve signals likely originate in the activation of certain neurons in their brains.

relationship between consciousness and free will

What causes those neurons to fire? According to the proponent of the causal closedness of the physical world, we now have a quite detailed understanding of the process that leads to the firing of a neuron in terms of complex electrochemical processes involving ions in the fluid inside and outside a neuron, differences in voltage across cell membranes, and so forth. In other words, we have a pretty good picture in terms of the laws of physics, chemistry and biology of the processes at the microphysical level that ultimately explain the movements of peoples' fingers.

If, by hypothesis, the movements of fingers of essayists are ultimately teleologically explained in terms of purposes, and those essayists are agents who cause movements of their fingers to occur as means to accomplishing those purposes, then there must be room sometimes called a gap in the causal story for those agents to intervene and initially cause, say, a neuron to fire, which eventually leads to the movement of a finger.

Does, however, the requisite gap exist in the causal story? According to the advocate of causal closure, the neuroscientist, in order to have a complete explanation of the complex processes that lead to the movements of an essayist's fingers, does not need to include reference to an agent and a purposeful explanation. Indeed, this scientist allegedly cannot allow for an agent and a purposeful explanation because were he to do so, he could not practice his science.

As a scientist, he is methodologically committed to not allowing for anything other than explanations in terms of physical causes. He needs to presuppose the principle of causal closure because were he to abandon it, then whenever he could not discover a physical cause of an event in the physical world, he might or would be tempted to terminate his empirical work and appeal to a noncausal or teleological explanation of that effect.

The advance and success of science, however, in principle requires that no such appeal be permitted. In short, the closedness of the physical world is a regulative idea of science.

Without it, science as we know it would not exist.

An Argument from Consciousness and Free Will (The Great Debate)

In order to evaluate the argument against free will from causal closure, it is necessary to consider what it is about physical entities that a scientist is trying to discover. It is reasonable to claim that he is trying to discover how the capacities of particles or microphysical entities such as neurons are causally affected by causal powers of other physical entities including other neurons.

For example, in his pioneering work on the brain, the neuroscientist Wilder Penfield stimulated cortical motor areas of patients' brains with an electrode, which resulted in movements of their limbs [2]. As Penfield observed the neural impulses that resulted from stimulation by the electrode, he had to assume that during his experiments the relevant areas of the patients' brains were causally closed to other causal influences.

Otherwise, he could not justifiably conclude that the electrode causally produced the neural impulses, which in turn causally produced both additional neural impulses down a causal chain and ultimately the limb's movement.

There is no reason, however, to think that because Penfield's investigation of the brain required the assumption of causal closedness in the context of his experiments that he had to be committed as a scientist to the assumption that the physical world is universally causally closed such that the capacities of microphysical entities to be causally affected could only be actualized by other physical entities.

An Argument from Consciousness and Free Will (2007)

That is, there is no reason to think that because a neuroscientist like Penfield must assume causal closure in his experimental work in order to discover how physical entities causally interact with each other that he must be committed as a scientist to the nonexistence of agents who choose to act for purposes and have the power to causally affect physical entities to realize those purposes.

All that a neuroscientist such as Penfield must be committed to, as a physical scientist, is that agents that choose for purposes, if they exist, are not causally producing events in the relevant neurons during his experiments. If a neuroscientist like Penfield makes the methodological assumption that microphysical entities can have their capacities causally actualized only by other physical entities, then he does so not as a physical scientist but as a naturalist.

Consider, now, the movements of our fingers as we write our essay. While Penfield and his ilk could produce movements of our fingers by inserting electrodes into the cortical motor areas of our brains and discover what goes on in those and other areas of our bodies on those occasions, is there any reason to think that the present movements of our fingers while typing cannot adequately be explained without ultimately invoking a teleological explanation in the form of the purpose for which we chose to move them?

It would certainly seem so. After all, these movements seem purposeful to an observer to the extent that they are producing what are hopefully intelligible sentences, and from the perspective of our first-person experiences, we remember choosing to write this essay and it now seems to us that we are carrying out our plan to do so.

In short, it simply stretches one's credulity to the breaking point to claim that what is presently taking place in our bodies in relationship to the movements of our fingers can be explained without any ultimate or final reference to the teleological explanation of our choice to write this essay. Yet, that is precisely what the naturalist proponent of the argument from causal closure would have us believe.

Not only would he have us believe this, however, but also he would have us believe that no events in our bodies or minds ultimately occur for a purpose. They cannot, if one assumes the causal closure of the physical world.

Given, however, that there is no good reason to think that the practice and progress of science requires causal closedness, there is as of yet no reason to think that naturalism is true.

Consciousness, free will, and moral responsibility: Taking the folk seriously

Before proceeding, it is important to point out that people typically see the disagreement between naturalists and their opponents whom we will call 'teleologists' about what is an acceptable explanation manifested in the public square in debates about creation versus evolution. The argument in the public square is about whether God should, in popular vernacular, be allowed into the biology class, or whether certain complex phenomena in our physical bodies e.

According to naturalists, the scientific method causal closedness requires that no matter how designed some complex biological organism or organ might appear [3]it is in principle impermissible to appeal to a teleological explanation of it.

What a reader should be aware of, however, is that the argument from causal closure that is used by naturalists to exclude teleological explanations of biological phenomena is the very same argument they use to exclude teleological explanations of the movements of an essayist's fingers on a keyboard. If the argument from causal closedness against the teleologist in the public disputes about evolution versus creation is sound, then it is sound when used against the teleologist in debates about bodily and mental events in our everyday lives.

If the argument is no good in the latter realm, then there is no reason to think that it is any good in the former. The argument from causal closure has led naturalists to propose some highly counterintuitive understandings of the relationship between our physical and mental lives. The most popular contemporary naturalist view of this relationship is the thesis that reality is a multilayered hierarchy consisting of levels of entities with their characteristic properties and events.

According to this view, the lowest, fundamental or bottom level of reality consists of microphysical particles. On top of this lowest level are higher, intermediate-level entities e. Mental properties and events are features of human beings brains or central nervous systems that are higher- highest-? There is a dependency relationship between the lower-level, physical properties and events of micro-objects and the higher-level mental properties and events of human beings: Thus, there is an ontological primacy of the physical over the mental, and physical indiscernibility two entities are physically identical entails mental indiscernibility two entities are mentally identical.

The deterministic dependency relationship of the mental on the physical world is typically characterized by naturalists as a supervenience relationship: Because a choice is a mental event, it supervenes on a physical event or events. This implies that a choice is determined to occur by those physical events on which it supervenes. The implication of this supervenience relationship between the mental and the physical is that free will in the form of undetermined choices explained by purposes is impossible.

If the argument from causal closure fails and we have free will, a choice does not supervene on a physical event or events. What, then, is the most plausible view of the ontological status of a choice? In the remaining space that is allotted to us in this opening case for theism, we briefly highlight the difference between our mental, conscious life and the physical world and explain why we believe that there is good justification for holding that we, the beings who make choices, are immaterial minds souls.

relationship between consciousness and free will

We conclude by indicating why we believe our existence as minds is more plausible given theism rather than naturalism. Consciousness To illustrate the difference between our conscious, mental life and that which is physical, consider a well-known argument in the philosophical literature that concerns a hypothetical scientist named 'Mary.

But this is an outcome Hodgson rejects. Here I think he makes his most compelling argument. If it is regarded as acceptable that government officials treat citizens in any such manner as appears to be most [socially] beneficial, irrespective of whether persons so treated have done anything to deserve that treatment, the way is left open for practices like putting political dissidents into prisons or mental asylums. Respect for human rights requires that, with limited exceptions, governments refrain from interfering with the freedom of citizens unless the citizens have acted in breach of a publicly stated law, in circumstances where they are responsible for the breach and can fairly be regarded as deserving punishment.

For reasons similar to these, some free will deniers have gone so far as to say that the idea of what they see as the illusion of free will must be kept up and promulgated in order for society to function. But chicanery does not suit Hodgson: Accordingly, for him, human beings must be free in some sense adequate to ground personal responsibility, and it becomes the work of his book to demonstrate how.

But just as one finds with Descartes on his journey to prove the existence of God and a range of other goodies, it soon becomes clear that Hodgson actually assumes all sorts of things: Many just pop in, one after another — until, soon enough, we find ourselves in a world with conscious, rational human subjects, an external environment, the theory of evolution, and all manner of wonderful things that Hodgson might just as well have taken for granted in his quest to establish freedom of the will.

Rather, as I suggested before, the starting point for Hodgson is his belief that punishment is necessary, and that it must be rooted in genuine desert. His overall argument, however, is unlikely to sway anyone who is not already disposed to his conclusion: Caruso labels the version of hard-incompatibilism to which he is committed "hard-enough determinism" p. He asserts that the neural processes that underlie our decision-making are part of a causally determined or at least "near determined" system p.

Thus, he leaves open, as he should, the possibility that there is at least some indeterminism in the universe. But he maintains that any quantum indeterminacies "are of such a vanishing magnitude as to cancel out before reaching the required neural level" p. Caruso explicitly endorses and offers a limited defense of a higher-order thought HOT theory of consciousness pp. Unfortunately, there is no sustained engagement with viable alternatives to the HOT theory.

It is not obvious that an adequate case for the illusion of conscious free will requires accepting the HOT theory. In fact, reliance upon the HOT theory strikes me as a liability given the criticisms of the theory in the literature e. Regarding the book's organization, Caruso spends the first three chapters focusing primarily on the standard philosophical debates over free will, critiquing both compatibilist and libertarian theories of free will.

By the fourth chapter, compatibilism is off the table as a live option. The remaining four chapters are devoted to the relationship between consciousness and free will, with a heavy emphasis on surveying the empirical evidence that Caruso argues counts against normal human agents having libertarian free will.

Caruso's critique of existing theories begins with libertarianism.

Daniel Dennett on Human Consciousness and Free Will

He focuses his attention on agent-causal and event-causal strategies. Event-causal strategies take free decision-making to involve indeterministic processes involving the agent's mental states and events doing the causal work. Caruso casts his net widely in critiquing agent-causal libertarianism, not focusing on any single defense of agent-causalism.

relationship between consciousness and free will

His critique of event-causalism is more focused, targeting the work of Robert Kane In critiquing Kane, Caruso mostly echoes the standard objections in the literature.

For instance, he questions the empirical plausibility of Kane's theory and argues that decisions that are the result of indeterministic processes are unintelligible pp. In making a case against agent-causalism, Caruso appears at times to be sparring with a straw opponent.

Caruso characterizes agent-causalism as a theory committed to a dualist picture of the self. And it is this alleged feature of agent-causal strategies that is his main target; he argues that agent-causation involves a violation of physical causal closure pp.

Unfortunately, Caruso runs roughshod over important distinctions between the views of different proponents of agent-causalism, ignoring important differences that may render some defenders of agent-causalism immune to Caruso's main objection. The end result is that his critique of agent-causalism is substantially weaker than it could have been. Caruso begins by presenting the consequence argument for incompatibilism -- which concludes that our decisions are not "up to us" in the sense required for free will if they are the causal consequences of past events and laws of nature that are not up to us van Inwagenpp.

He then turns to making a case against compatibilism from recent work in experimental philosophy on folk intuitions about free will and from the phenomenology of agency. He argues that the findings from experimental philosophy and the phenomenology of agency count against regarding compatibilism as the ordinary common-sense theory of free will pp. I will not discuss his response to compatibilist replies to the consequence argument, but instead focus only on the significance of experimental findings and phenomenology for the tenability of compatibilism.