Articles from 01/2012

13 January 2012

The Ghostly Illusion of Freewill

During my childhood I was fascinated by videogames. One game that stands out in my memory is Pacman. It wasn’t the gameplay that interested me so much as the behaviour of the ghosts. As you watch them roam around the maze, you get the feeling that they are intelligent. They seem to be making decisions about how best to catch Pacman. But how free are their decisions? One of the interesting things I noticed was that I could play exactly the same game over and over if I moved Pacman in precisely the same way each time.…Read

Neuroscience, free will and determinism: ‘I’m just a machine’

Our bodies can be controlled by outside forces in the universe, discovers Tom Chivers. So where does that leave free will? By Tom Chivers (This article first appeared in ‘The Telegraph’ on 12 Oct 2011)

For a man who thinks he's a robot, Professor Patrick Haggard is remarkably cheerful about it. "We certainly don't have free will," says the leading British neuroscientist. "Not in the sense we think." It's quite a way to start an interview.

We're in the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, in Queen Square in London, the…Read

12 January 2012

Luck swallows everything

Are we free agents? Can we be morally responsible for what we do? Philosophers distinguish these questions and have all the answers. Some say YES and YES (we are fully free, and wholly morally responsible for what we do). Others say YES and NO (certainly we are free agents - but we cannot be ultimately responsible for what we do). A third group says NO and NO (we are not free agents at all; a fortiori we cannot be morally responsible). A strange minority says NO and YES (we can be morally responsible for what we do even though…Read

Are we Free or Determined?

The free will argument is complex and diverse. Both of us recognise that the debate about freedom can be responded to by arguing that we may be free and also determined.

Our debate will not attempt to cover all areas of this topic, but will simply offer two opposing answers to the question: ‘Are we free or are we determined?’

Luke - Libertarianism The debate over free will has developed into a web of arguments and counter-arguments. On the one side we have philosophers such as René Descartes, who once described the…Read

Philosophical Films: The Adjustment Bureau’s Will, Won’t Be Done

The question of whether or not human beings possess free will has kept philosophers out of mischief for millennia. The case for determinism may look neat, yet it's always been resisted. For if there's no free will, there's no moral responsibility and thus no basis for justice.

Accomplishments merit no praise, and love is devalued. Above all, our species loses the dignity we're so eager to accord it.

In this fight, Hollywood has had few doubts about which dog to back. After all, drama in which the antagonists were mere automatons…Read

Editorial: Rob Mason

“Professor, do we have a free will, or are all our actions determined by our unconscious mind?”

Everyone would agree that people have preferences of their own and these at least influence what we do. However the question of free will seems to depend upon whether our choices are influenced or determined by these preferences. A distinguished social psychologist, John A. Bargh in a recent book “Are We Free” frames this question as follows;

“Are our behaviors, judgments and other higher mental processes the product of free conscious choices, as…Read