Does Neuroscience Allow Us to Believe in Human Freedom?

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“Philosophers have been debating free will for millennia, and they have been making progress. But neuroscientists barged in like an elephant into a china shop and claimed to have solved it in one fell swoop.” That’s the assessment of computational neuroscientist Uri Maoz on Benjamin Libet’s famous experiment which appeared to show that free will was an illusion. If Libet’s experiment is not familiar, you can catch a quick summary here from the BBC.

For nearly 30 years, debate continued about the meaning and interpretation of Libet’s work, but only recently have new neuroscientific investigations pointed to substantial cracks in that interpretation. The Atlantic has an excellent summary of what those cracks are now pointing to and this article from the University of Notre Dame’s Church Life Journal includes a wider discussion about the definition of free will in addition to recent research.

Suffice it to say philosophers, now working alongside scientists, likely have a few more decades of debate as they try to understand free will.

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