background preloader

Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless. Is free will an illusion? Some leading scientists think so. For instance, in 2002 the psychologist Daniel Wegner wrote, “It seems we are agents. It seems we cause what we do… It is sobering and ultimately accurate to call all this an illusion.” Many neuroscientists are employing a flawed notion of free will. Such proclamations make the news; after all, if free will is dead, then moral and legal responsibility may be close behind. Indeed, free will matters in part because it is a precondition for deserving blame for bad acts and deserving credit for achievements. Here, I’ll explain why neuroscience is not the death of free will and does not “wreak havoc on our sense of moral and legal responsibility,” extending a discussion begun in Gary Gutting’s recent Stone column. Leif Parsons We should be wary of defining things out of existence. So, does neuroscience mean the death of free will?

Hacking Knowledge: 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better If someone granted you one wish, what do you imagine you would want out of life that you haven’t gotten yet? For many people, it would be self-improvement and knowledge. Newcounter knowledge is the backbone of society’s progress. Great thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and others’ quests for knowledge have led society to many of the marvels we enjoy today. Life-changing knowledge does typically require advanced learning techniques. Health Shake a leg. Balance Sleep on it. Perspective and Focus Change your focus, part 2. Recall Techniques Listen to music. Visual Aids Every picture tells a story. Verbal and Auditory Techniques Stimulate ideas. Kinesthetic Techniques Write, don’t type. Self-Motivation Techniques Give yourself credit. Supplemental Techniques Read as much as you can. For Teachers, Tutors, and Parents Be engaging. For Students and Self-Studiers Be engaged. Parting Advice Persist. Sources For This Article Did you enjoy this article?

The Denial of Free Will in Hasidic Thought According to some Hasidic thinkers, human free will is an illusion; God causes all human actions. According to medieval mystic Isaac Luria, God needed to contract before creating the world. We Also Recommend Some Hasidic thinkers conceive of this as an "epistemic" contraction, a withdrawal in the realm of knowledge and perception, which caused the perception that God is separate from the world--which, as discussed in this article, has ramifications for the free will debate. There were at least two distinct clusters of ideas in Hasidism congenial to the denial of free will in one form or another, and which historically exerted pressure in that direction. There Is Nothing Separate From God According to the Ari, prior to Creation "all was filled from the undifferentiated light of the Einsof (the 'Infinite' [i.e. But this was not the real truth. Schneur Zalman uses the metaphor of the rays of the sun coming from the sun to illustrate his epistemological interpretation of the "contraction."

Home Page This wiki is a collaborative environment for exploring ways to become a better thinker. Topics that can be explored here include MemoryTechniques, MentalMath, CriticalThinking, BrainStorming, ShorthandSystems, NotebookSystems, and SmartDrugs. Other relevant topics are also welcome. SiteNews Wiki Topics Mindhacker: The support page for the 2011 book by RonHaleEvans and MartyHaleEvans. MindPerformanceHacks: The support page for the 2006 book of the same name by RonHaleEvans. Easily memorize complex information - MemoryTechnique Do hard math in your head - MentalMath Improve your intelligence Think better Other pages What is a Wiki? A wiki is a web site built collaboratively by a community of users. Feel free to add your own content to this wiki. The Mentat Wiki is powered by Oddmuse, and hosted by the Center for Ludic Synergy.

Hardened Hearts: Some Explanations Medieval commentators suggested justifications for God's hardening Pharaoh's heart. In several places, the Bible reports that God hardened human hearts (most notably, Pharoah's), apparently stripping these agents of free will and manipulating their choices. There are a number of problems with this: 1) Why would God do this? 2) How could God hold a hardened agent responsible for his actions? A "solution" to [the philosophical problems raised by God's hardening of hearts] must satisfy two criteria. Reinterpretation of the Term Some exegetes, including Saadia Gaon (Book of Beliefs and Opinions, IV:6) and Rabbi Yitzchak Arama (chapter 36 of his Akedat Yitzchak), deny that the term "hardening of the heart" has anything to do with interference in motivational systems. The Modest Solution Further, because releasing the Israelites would have taken place only under pressure of the plagues, Pharaoh would not have genuinely repented had he succumbed to the plagues' pressure. Dr.

Eureka! Neural evidence for sudden insight A recent study provides intriguing information about the neural dynamics underlying behavioral changes associated with the development of new problem solving strategies. The research, published by the Cell Press in the May 13 issue of the journal Neuron, supports the idea of "a-ha" moments in the brain that are associated with sudden insight. Our daily lives are filled with changes that force us to abandon old behavioral strategies that are no longer advantageous and develop new, more appropriate responses. While it is clear that new rules are often deduced through trial-and-error learning, the neural dynamics that underlie the change from a familiar to a novel rule are not well understood. "The ability of animals and humans to infer and apply new rules in order to maximize reward relies critically on the frontal lobes," explains one of the researchers who led the study, Dr. Specifically, Dr.

The Free Will Problem: Medieval Solutions In the Middle Ages, Jewish thinkers struggled to reconcile God's knowledge of the future with human choice. Reprinted with permission from The Jewish Religion: A Companion, published by Oxford University Press. A problem that exercised the minds of the medieval Jewish philosophers was that of reconciling God's foreknowledge with human free will. We Also Recommend This problem, called the problem of "knowledge versus free will," can be baldly stated. If God knows, as presumably He does, long before a man is born how he will behave throughout his life, how can that man be blamed and punished for his sinful acts and praised and rewarded for his virtuous acts? Solution #1: God Has No Foreknowledge Gersonides, unwilling to compromise in any way human free will, posits as a solution (The Wars of the Lord, iii. 6) that God does not know beforehand how a man will behave in particular circumstances. Solution #2: Humans Have No Free Choice Solution #3: Divine and Human Knowledge Are Incomparable

Why Too Much Data Disables Your Decision Making Quick, think back to a major decision. You know, the kind that compelled you to read everything on a topic and lead you to spend hours devouring every last scrap of data. How'd that work out for you? We like to think that more information drives smarter decisions; that the more details we absorb, the better off we'll be. It's why we subscribe to Google Alerts, cling to our iPhone, and fire up our TweetDeck. Knowledge, we're told, is power. That's the question raised by Princeton and Stanford University psychologists in a fascinating study titled On the Pursuit and Misuse of Useless Information. Their experiment was simple. Imagine that you are a loan officer at a bank reviewing the mortgage application of a recent college graduate with a stable, well-paying job and a solid credit history. Group 2 saw the same paragraph with one crucial difference. Here's where the study gets clever. The result? To say the findings are surprising is to state the obvious. Remember Seinfeld and Friends?

The Free Will Problem: Early Solutions Biblical and rabbinic sources stress both divine determinism and human freedom. "There was no other way of expressing the uncanny, overpowering, 'demonic' character of the power of sin, than by seeing this too as a work of Yahweh [God], even if one executed in anger (J. Köberle)." We thus find a series of human events explicated by Scripture through the notion of psychic invasion. Conversely, God does not permit Abimelech, king of Gerar, to sin with Abraham's wife Sarah (Genesis 20:6). Living With the Contradiction On the other hand, the Deuteronomist emphasizes the crucial significance of human choice and its consequent culpability when it has gone astray (Deuteronomy 30:19‑20). In light of the scriptural emphasis on divine intervention, it is not difficult to see how Jewish wisdom and apocalyptic writings came to emphasize the decisive importance of God's prior gift of wisdom for the determination of human character. A similar dilemma confronts us in the Qumran [Dead Sea] Scrolls. Dr.

120 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power Here are 120 things you can do starting today to help you think faster, improve memory, comprehend information better and unleash your brain’s full potential. Solve puzzles and brainteasers.Cultivate ambidexterity. Use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth, comb your hair or use the mouse. Readers’ Contributions Dance! Contribute your own tip! There are many, many ways to keep our brains sharp.