Picture: Raymond Tallis‘Aping Mankind’ is a large scale attack by Raymond Tallis on two reductive dogmas which he characterises as ‘Neuromania’ and ‘Darwinitis’.  He wishes especially to refute the identification of mind and brain, and as an expert on the neurology of old age, his view of the scientific evidence carries a good deal of weight. He also appears to be a big fan of Parmenides, which suggests a good acquaintance with the philosophical background. It’s a vigorous, useful, and readable contribution to the debate.

Tallis persuasively denounces exaggerated claims made on the basis of brain scans, notably claims to have detected the ‘seat of wisdom’ in the brain.  These experiments, it seems, rely on what are essentially fuzzy and ambiguous pictures arrived at by subtraction in very simple experimental conditions, to provide the basis for claims of a profound and detailed understanding far beyond what they could possibly support. This is no longer such a controversial debunking as it would have been a few years ago, but it’s still useful.

Of course, the fact that some claims to have reduced thought to neuronal activity are wrong does not mean that thought cannot nevertheless turn out to be neuronal activity, but Tallis pushes his scepticism a long way. At times he seems reluctant to concede that there is anything more than a meaningless correlation between the firing of neurons in the brain and the occurence of thoughts in the mind.  He does agree that possession of a working brain is a necessary condition for conscious thought, but he’s not prepared to go much further. Most people, I think, would accept that Wilder Penfield’s classic experiments, in which the stimulation of parts of the brain with an electrode caused an experience of remembered music in the subject, pretty much show that memories are encoded in the brain one way or another; but Tallis does not accept that neurons could constitute memories. For memory you need a history, you need to have formed the memories in the first place, he says: Penfield’s electrode was not creating but merely reactivating memories which already existed.

Tallis seems to start from a kind of Brentanoesque incredulity about the utter incompatibility of the physical and the mental. Some of his arguments have a refreshingly simple (or if you prefer, naive) quality: when we experience yellow, he points out, our nerve impulses are not yellow.  True enough, but then a word need not be printed in yellow ink to encode yellowness either. Tallis quotes Searle offering a dual-aspect explanation: water is H2O, but H2O molecules do not themselves have watery properties: you cannot tell what the back of a house loks like from the front, although it is the same house. In the same way our thoughts can be neural activity without the neurons themselves resembling thoughts. Tallis utterly rejects this: he maintains that to have different aspects requires a conscious observer, so we’re smuggling in the very thing we need to explain.  I think this is an odd argument. If things don’t have different aspects until an observer is present, what determines the aspects they eventually have? If it’s the observer, we seem to slipping towards idealism or solipsism, which I’m sure Tallis would not find congenial. Based on what he says elsewhere, I think Tallis would say the thing determines its own aspects in that it has potential aspects which only get actualised when observed; but in that case didn’t it really sort of have those aspects all along? Tallis seems to be adopting the view that an appearance (say yellowness) can only properly be explained by another thing that already has that same appearance (is yellow). It must be clear that if we take this view we’re never going to get very far with our explanations of yellow or any other appearance.

But I think that’s the weakest point in a sceptical case which is otherwise fairly plausible. Tallis is Brentanoesque in another way in that he emphasises the importance of intentionality – quite rightly, I think. He suggests it has been neglected, which I think is also true, although we must not go overboard: both Searle and Dennett, for example, have published whole books about it. In Tallis’ view the capacity to think explicitly about things is a key unique feature of human mindfulness, and that too may well be correct. I’m less sure about his characterisation of intentionality as an outward arrow. Perception, he says, is usually represented purely in terms of information flowing in, but there is also a corresponding outward flow of intentionality. The rose we’re looking at hits our eye (or rather a beam of light from the rose does so), but we also, as it were, think back at the rose. Is this a useful way of thinking about intentionality? It has the merit of foregrounding it, but I think we’d need a theory of intentionality  in order to judge whether talk of an outward arrow was helpful or confusing, and no fully-developed theory is on offer.

Tallis has a very vivid evocation of a form of the binding problem, the issue of how all our different sensory inputs are brought together in the mind coherently. As normally described, the binding problem seems like lip-synch issues writ large: Tallis focuses instead on the strange fact that consciousness is united and yet composed of many small distinct elements at the same time.  He rightly points out that it’s no good having a theory which merely explains how things are all brought together: if you combine a lot of nerve impulses into one you just mash them. I think the answer may be that we can experience a complex unity because we are complex unities ourselves, but it’s an excellent and thought-provoking exposition.

Tallis’ attack on’ Darwinitis’ takes on Cosmidoobianism, memes and the rest with predictable but entertaining vigour. Again, he presses things quite a long way. It’s one thing to doubt whether every feature of human culture is determined by evolution: Tallis seems to suggest that human culture has no survival value, or at any rate, had none until recently, too recently to account for human development. This is reminiscent of the argument put by Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin’s co-discoverer of the principle of survival of the fittest: he later said that evolution could not account for human intelligence because a caveman could have lived his life perfectly well with a much less generous helping of it. The problem is that this leaves us needing a further explanation of why we are so brainy and cultured; Wallace, alas, ended up resorting to spiritualism to fill the gap (we can feel confident that Tallis, a notable public champion of disbelief, will never go that way). It seems better to me to draw a clear distinction between the capacity for human culture, which is wholly explicable by evolutionary pressure, and the contents of human culture, which are largely ephemeral, variable, and non-hereditary.

Tallis points out that some sleight of hand with vocabulary is not unknown in this area, in particular the tactic of the transferrred epithet: a word implying full mental activity is used metaphorically – a ‘smart’ bomb is said to be ‘hunting down’ its target – and the important difference is covertly elided. He notes the particular slipperiness of the word ‘information’, something we’ve touched on before.

It is a weakness of Tallis’ position that he has no general alternative theory to offer in place of those he is attacking – consciousness remains a mystery (he sympathises with Colin McGinn’s mysterianism to some degree, incidentally, but reproves him for suggesting that our inability to understand ourselves might be biological). However, he does offer positive views of selfhood and free will, both of which he is concerned to defend. Rather than the brain, he chooses to celebrate the hand as a defining and influential human organ: opposable thumbs allow it to address itself and us: it becomes a proto-tool and this gives us a sense of ourselves as acting on the world in a tool-like manner. In this way we develop a sense of ourselves as a distinct entity and an agent, an existential intuition.  This is OK as far as it goes though it does sound in places like another theory of how we get a mere impression, or dare I say an illusion, of selfhood and agency, the very position Tallis wants to refute. We really need more solid ontological foundations. In response to critics who have pointed to the elephant’s trunk and the squid’s tentacles, Tallis grudgingly concedes that hands alone are not all you need and a human brain does have something to contribute.

Turning to free will, Tallis tackles Libet’s experiments (which seem to show that a decision to move one’s hand is actually made a measurable time before one becomes aware of it). So, he says, the decision to move the hand can be tracked back half a second? Well, that’s nothing: if you like you can track it back days, to when the experimental subject decided to volunteer; moreover, the aim of the subject was not just to move the hand, but also to help that nice Dr Libet, or to forward the cause of science. In this longer context of freely made decisions the precise timing of the RP is of no account.

To be free according to Tallis, an act must be expressive of what the agent is, the agent must seem to be the initiator, and the act must deflect the course of events. If we are inclined to doubt that we can truly deflect the course of events, he again appeals to a wider context: look at the world around us, he says, and who can doubt that collectively we have diverted the course of events pretty substantially?  I don’t think this will convert any determinists. The curious thing is that Tallis seems to be groping for a theory of different levels of description, or well, a dual aspect theory.  I would  have thought dual-aspect theories ought to be quite congenial to Tallis, as they represent a rejection of ‘nothing but’ reductionism in favour of an attempt to give all levels of interpretation parity of esteem, but alas it seems not.

As I say, there is no new theory of consciousness on offer here, but Tallis does review the idea that we might need to revise our basic ideas of how the world is put together in order to accommodate it. He is emphatically against traditional dualism, and he firmly rejects the idea that quantum physics might have the explanation too. Panpsychism may have a certain logic but generate more problems than it solves.  Instead he points again to the importance of intentionality and the need for a new view that incorporates it: in the end ‘Thatter’, his word for the indexical, intentional quality of the mental world, may be as important as matter.

25 Comments

  1. 1. Charles Wolverton says:

    when we experience yellow … our nerve impulses are not yellow.

    It isn’t clear what “experience yellow” means here. As the long departed (hopefully only from CE-dom) Mike Spenard argued, we “experience” the impact on the retina of a direction-specific spectral power distribution (SPD) which causes a chain of neural activities some subset of which (a neural activity pattern – NAP) one may have learned to associate with production (written, spoken, ostensive, thought, etc) of a word, eg, “yellow” for a family of similarly “spiked” SPDs. That suggests to me that what is “stored” in memory is the set of motor commands (“nerve impulses”) necessary to produce that word. So, although the quote is (trivially) correct as written, it may well be that our nerve impulses indeed can be – in that sense – “yellow”.

    Perhaps “experiencing yellow” was intended to capture the visual phenomenal experience associated with that same family of SPDs. But again, whatever the details of that phenomenon, it presumably must be consequent to some NAP from the same chain of neural activities (although not necessarily the same NAP as before). FWIW, here’s my speculation about part of how that might work.

    Since we can associate different words with different patterns of neural activity (NAPs), we can (in principle) paint a “picture” of FOV content analogous to an uncolored picture in a color-by-numbers picture book. The required directionality (for this purpose, the SPD is essentially a function not only of wavelength but also of direction) presumably is provided by saccading. Were this a reasonably accurate description of the process, we would have everything needed to construct a two dimensional representation of the FOV content with homogenous regions effectively labeled with a color word. Of course, the “hard problem” of explaining how (and why) that representation gets realized as phenomenal experience remains. But there is no suggestion in this speculation that the underlying NAPs have color, only that they can be distinguished and effectively labeled, possibly with color words.

    Despite there being in this description two different types of response to the same chain of neural activity (the thought “yellow” and the phenomenal experience), I would agree that calling them “aspects” is a questionable choice since that word suggests a Cartesian “viewer”. Neither type of NAP is directly “seen” by the subject. Of course, in time it may become possible to associate a different experimenter-observable NAP with each type of response, in which case describing those observations as different aspects of the same chain might be appropriate.

    Perception … is usually represented purely in terms of information flowing in, but there is also a corresponding outward flow of intentionality.

    Because “information” and “intentionality” are both severely overloaded words, I can’t be sure, but I think this can be translated into my way of thinking as follows:

    Recognition of a perceived object, event, or property in a given context results in the production of a latent corresponding response which may or may not be actualized.

    Implicit in this are two assumptions:

    1 – to “recognize” something is to have learned to associate a set of possible verbal responses with certain sensory inputs caused by it

    2 – to have a specific thought “about” something is to select a member of that set for possible actualization

    I don’t yet have a good enough grasp of Davidson or Sellars to attribute confidently either of those precise assumptions to either of them, but rightly or wrongly I interpret them as having argued for both.

    Question: does “Cosmidoobianism” refer to Leda?

  2. 2. Charles Wolverton says:

    Never mind – I had forgotten her accomplice’s name.

  3. 3. chen says:

    “It isn’t clear what “experience yellow” means here. As the long departed (hopefully only from CE-dom) Mike Spenard argued, we “experience” the impact on the retina of a direction-specific spectral power distribution (SPD) which causes a chain of neural activities some subset of which (a neural activity pattern – NAP) one may have learned to associate with production (written, spoken, ostensive, thought, etc) of a word, eg, “yellow” for a family of similarly “spiked” SPDs. That suggests to me that what is “stored” in memory is the set of motor commands (“nerve impulses”) necessary to produce that word. So, although the quote is (trivially) correct as written, it may well be that our nerve impulses indeed can be – in that sense – “yellow”.”

    And after all the above we get “in that sense” as a qualifier. Yet the point is that the nerve impulses are not yellow. It’s amazing the contortions one gets themselves into trying to say differently. None of what has just been quoted in anyway suggests the nerve impulses are yellow – at most, one can correlate quite accurately the impulse itself with the experience of yellow. The qualifier “in that sense” does not make them equivalent and this is the essential reason I like when Tallis points us how we are losing ourselves in metaphors – from those who are supposed to be most “scientific” and literal. Simply put, if one feigns confusion over the qualitative aspects of experience, one must be able to say, without qualifiers, that the experience and the condition of the experience are the same, not “in a sense” since this only creates yet another thing to explain. In what sense? How is it “yellow” in that sense? When we distinguish between “nerve impulses” and “yellow” what are we distinguishing? That is, when I go on to suggest that the former is “in that sense” the latter, *what* am I identifying with the the qualification? If it is “in that sense” then apparently something is left over or not fully accounted for. What?

  4. 4. Peter says:

    Mike Spenard has been writing a book about dualism (more on that very shortly).

    Yes, ‘Cosmidoobianism’ refers (jocularly rather than dismissively) to the influential work of Leda Cosmides and John Tooby.

  5. 5. Vicente says:

    Cool post, thank you Peter, I just ordered de book.

    but then a word need not be printed in yellow ink to encode yellowness either

    Come on Peter, what do you mean by encode? and in any case, encoded information need to be decoded before use, so the “neurological encoded yellow” would need to be decoded to allow the phenomenal experience of a retrieved memory. How and where is this decoding perfomed?

    The point is 100% valid, actually it is the “demolition point”.

    It is a weakness of Tallis’ position that he has no general alternative theory to offer in place of those he is attacking

    This is not a weak point, it is a fact, and it is better to acknowledge ignorance than to buy a wrong explanation.

    and who can doubt that collectively we have diverted the course of events pretty substantially

    I do, this is meaningless and tautological. Divert the course of events from what other course? The actual course of events is what it is, and it is always diverted from an infinite number of possible alternative courses that never occured. We do one action at the expenses of other infinite actions we don’t do. This is known in economy as the “cost of opportunity”.

  6. 6. Charles Wolverton says:

    chen –

    The “offending” statement was preceded by the “sense” in which the nerve impulses are “yellow” – a latent verbal utterance, stored as motor neuron “commands” – as opposed to the color yellow. It was intended as a bit of a humorous aside.

    Sorry it upset you so. But then I’ve noticed a tendency for qualiaphiles to be a bit touchy.

  7. 7. Charles Wolverton says:

    Peter –

    I infer that you can contact Mike, which I cannot. If so, and if it’s not too late, would you alert him that I would be delighted to be a pre-pub reviewer if that would be helpful.

  8. 8. John says:

    “Intentionality” expresses the way that we must account for more than an instant when describing mind. Its because we push the letter into the letter box that gives the letter box meaning. Simple static correlations used in data analysis such as “letterbox contains letter” do not contain the entire process.

    Intentionality is only a mystery for the 99% of philosophers and scientists who are presentists. The rest of us look at a moving letter and understand that an experience that contains motion is impossible if presentism were true. Presentism is false and 99% of scientists and philosophers cannot even be bothered to look and listen to see that this is the case.

  9. 9. Arnold Trehub says:

    Peter,

    You wrote:

    “The rose we’re looking at hits our eye (or rather a beam of light from the rose does so), but we also, as it were, think back at the rose. Is this a useful way of thinking about intentionality? It has the merit of foregrounding it, but I think we’d need a theory of intentionality in order to judge whether talk of an outward arrow was helpful or confusing, and no fully-developed theory is on offer.”

    It seems to me that the retinoid theory, according to which the representation of the rose on the mosaic cells of the imaging matrix is recurrently projected back into the egocentric phenomenal world of retinoid space, provides the “outward arrow” of intentionality. For example, see *The Cognitive Brain*, Chapter 12, Self-Directed Learning in a Complex Environment”, here: http://www.people.umass.edu/trehub/thecognitivebrain/chapter12.pdf

  10. 10. John says:

    Peter is also saying that his experience is time extended, containing a whole thought as well as an instantaneous image but will he even consider the possibility that time exists? It seems to me that the prejudice against the existence of time is more utter and complete than any other prejudice in human history, religious or otherwise. This is especially peculiar in an age when the balance of scientific knowledge supports the concept of temporal existence. Our experience is events extended in time, our science says this is possible but observation and theory are no match for the amazing prejudice against the existence of time. Discussing reality with Direct Realist Presentists is probably a hopeless task, like trying to convert religious fundamentalists.

  11. 11. Peter says:

    Charles – you can find Mike on Facebook. I have a kind of bare existence there myself, though I haven’t yet really come to terms with it.

    Arnold – that may be so. This may seem a bit cheeky, but I wonder whether I could invite you to write a guest post on the retinoid theory? My email is peter and then the at thing and then consciousentities.com. As regular correspondents know, I am unforgivably slow at responding to email, and I will be away in Germany for the next couple of weeks, but I should be very grateful and happy to post a piece from you.

    John – you’re right to highlight time: in fairness, Tallis does give it some prominence, partly as a particularly difficult part of his version of the binding problem, and more fundamentally as a mystery – if I’m reading him right he says we experience ‘tensed time’ but there’s nothing like that in physics. I’m not sure you would agree.

  12. 12. Arnold Trehub says:

    I think we experience time as a progression of the *extended present* — a progressive waxing and waning of autaptic-cell images in retinoid space. The sensory content of the progression of our extended present is provided by recurrent input from the mosaic cells (M) in our synaptic matrices. In memorial recall, the content of our extended present is augmented by input from the synaptic matrices for episodic learning and recall, See *The Cognitive Brain*, pp. 93-97, here: http://people.umass.edu/trehub/thecognitivebrain/chapter5.pdf.

  13. 13. John says:

    Peter, the binding problem seems to have two main aspects. The first is how events can be simultaneously within our experience and the second is intentionality ie: how the motion of a letter into a letterbox can occur as directed motion now. Until the nineteenth century philosophers speculated that the soul was some sort of “magic” point, a place of no extent that looked out at the world. This supernatural point could encompass both intentionality and simultaneity.

    The pre-nineteenth century philosophers based their ideas on observation – it certainly looks like we are seeing and feeling events laid out in space and time as if from some sort of point and if we accept this observation the binding problem goes away. The only problem with this observation is that it is absolutely incompatible with nineteenth century science and nineteenth century science is the “common knowledge” of philosophers and other pundits who speculate on the philosophy of mind.

    This common knowledge is so embedded that when it is pointed out that modern physics strongly suggests that time has an aspect that is a dimension the standard response is that this dimension only exists for observers moving at high velocities. This is like saying that space only exists for observers with measuring rods – it is like declaring that when we remove the measuring rod the space disappears. High velocity and quantum interference experiments show that dimensional time exists, remove the experiments and the dimensional time is still there.

    Dimensional time is not a part of “common knowledge” although it is obvious whenever we look at the world and see motion or hear a word. Furthermore dimensional time does not work in quite the same way as a spatial dimension, in the early days of the discovery of dimensional time it used to be characterised by complex numbers so that the combination of a spatial length and a temporal length would be given by: h^2 = x^2 + (ict)^2 but nowadays it is described in terms of modern differential geometry but with the same result: h^2 = x^2 – (ct)^2. Dimensional time subtracts from spatial length and can create the “magic” points that we observe but could not explain.

    All philosophers need accept to explain “mind” is the existence of dimensional time. Pigs might fly..

  14. 14. Arnold Trehub says:

    On the binding problem: The features in our phenomenal experience are not only laid out in space and time; they are arranged and assembled (bound) in what we take to be in accordance with the natural world. If you see a red car traveling from your left to right, the color of the car fills its shape, and both shape and color move together in the same direction. Yet shape, color, and motion are processed by separate brain mechanisms that are each located in a different part of the visual system. How are these different sensory features brought together into proper spatiotemporal register in our phenomenal experience? I find it surprising how often it is proposed that temporal synchrony can solve the problem. The necessity of properly projecting all relevant features in *egocentric spatial coordinates* as well as in time is often ignored.

    Even in the case of shape alone, binding is a difficult problem because the component features of large objects or scenes cannot be captured in a single fixation, but must be assembled in proper spatial contiguity over a succession of foveal fixations. My approach to the solution of this problem, which depends on excursions of the heuristic self-locus (selective attention), is given here: http://people.umass.edu/trehub/thecognitivebrain/chapter7.pdf.

  15. 15. John says:

    Arnold, I looked at your link and was impressed.

    If my memory serves me right express saccades are largely controlled by the superior colliculus (working through gaze centres etc). It looks like the colliculi are the “master system” that directly control saccades on a moment to moment basis and these are modulated by systems further down the processing chain, such as premotor systems, and those forming feedback loops to sharpen the analysis such as visual cortex, cerebellum etc. In the longer term it is frontal cortical modulation that dominates. It is likely that each of these regions would contain a system akin to or the same as the “retinoid system”. It might be noted that the colliculi and frontal cortex can be removed without removing conscious experience.

    Certainly what we experience is the summation of data from the target of each saccade (ie: Indirect Realism/Representationalism is a fact and Direct Realists are fantasists). It is a synthesis of data from all of the subprocessors involved in data acquisition.

    If “binding” occurs in conscious experience then it must be a property of that experience. We define “binding” and then find a physical explanation for this phenomenon. What is “binding”? It is, as you propose in your book, to do with parsed objects, directed motions, separations but it is not these things themselves.

    When we say that a parsed object is “bound” we mean that it is simultaneously present and demarcated in some way from the rest of experience. When I look at a painting on my wall (a woodland scene in a 1920s amateur style) the picture appears in focus but the surrounding view is slightly blurry and perhaps even slightly grey. So I have three levels of visual experience, the view is divided into background, clearer/more colourful object and a well-focussed centre of vision. Not only is the painting clearer and more colourful, I can hear the inner speech “painting” simultaneously with its presence. The painting is also the target of my experience in that when I am looking away from the painting and I say “painting” I can move my eyes or head towards the painting. There is an intention or direction in my experience that has the painting as its target and what is more the motion of my head toward the target occupies a slice of the extended present. So binding is to do with difference, simultaneity and intention. The mechanisms behind these properties of the bound object are parsing, analysis of direction and analysis of separation. The mechanisms are successions of events whereas experience is a continuum in a geometrical manifold.

  16. 16. Arnold Trehub says:

    John, you wrote:

    “There is an intention or direction in my experience that has the painting as its target [1] and what is more the motion of my head toward the target occupies a slice of the extended present. So binding is to do with difference, simultaneity and intention. The mechanisms behind these properties of the bound object are parsing, analysis of direction and analysis of separation. The mechanisms are successions of events whereas experience is a continuum in a geometrical manifold. [2]”

    1. I would say that it is your heuristic self-locus (I!*) that targets the painting. According to retinoid theory, it is the resting location of I!* (selective attention) that determines the target of the next saccade. On this basis, I have proposed that, in an important sense, we are always *preceded* by a “replica” of our self (I!*) as we navigate the world, either in overt activity or in covert imagination. I call this process *self precedence* and I think it must be taken into account in any theory of consciousness. See pp. 10-12, here, for a discussion of this aspect of experience:
    http://www.people.umass.edu/trehub/where-am-i-redux.pdf.

    2. This is a good way of putting it. The flash-lag demonstration (see below) is a good example of the failure of binding when the dynamic limits of the retinoid mechanisms are exceeded by the rapidity of sensory change. In this case, the brief flash of a yellow disc instead of a blue disc within a black ring is experienced as lagging the location of the ring when the ring is in rapid motion. This occurs because transfer of interneuron excitation to the leading autaptic cells in retinoid space for the blue-filled ring pattern is continuously in effect before the sensory response to the color change can be properly projected within the moving ring. So the greater the speed of rotation of the disc, the greater the perceived color misalignment. A disruption of binding.
    http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/mot_motionBinding/index.html.

  17. 17. Arnold Trehub says:

    Correction. The flash-lag demonstration is here:

    http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/mot_flashlag1/index.html

  18. 18. John says:

    I dont seem to be able to post more than a single line.

  19. 19. Peter says:

    Working
    OK
    for
    me….

  20. 20. John says:

    Perceptual asynchrony such as Arnold describes was one of the more interesting discoveries of the late nineties (Moutoussis and Zeki 1997). In Moutoussis and Zeki’s experiment the colours seem to be attached to moving blocks independently of the motion modelling of the blocks.

    Perceptual asynchrony confirms the anatomical and physiological evidence that the cerebral cortex is a collection of specific processors doing different tasks and perceptual output is the combination of these processes. Our conscious experience truly is the place where it “all comes together”, contrary to the ideas of philosophers such as Dennett who have strongly denied even the possibility of such a place.

    Moutoussis, K. and Zeki, S. (1997). A direct demonstration of perceptual asynchrony in vision. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 264, 393 – 399. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1688275/pdf/9107055.pdf

    Clifford, C.W.G., Arnold, D.H., Pearson, J. (2003). A paradox of temporal perception revealed by a stimulus oscillating in colour and orientation. Vision Research 43 (2003) 2245-2253.

  21. 21. John says:

    Hi Peter, its working for me now as well…these darn computers..

  22. 22. Shone says:

    A thing or two about free will. Libet’s famous experiment does not in any way make free will redundant. He claims free will is just a build up of potential which collapses as soon as we become conscious of it and so, it was the volunteer’s brain that decided to move the hand half a second before the subject became aware of it. Now Libet claims we don’t have free will, but we have the freedom to NOT move the hand (the now famous “free-won’t”), even if we feel the potential build-up and may succumb to it. However, isn’t the freedom to NOT move the hand the same as exercising free will? It is through free will that we choose NOT to move the hand, regardless of the potential building up in neuronal activity. Free will-1, Libet-0 :D

  23. 23. Peter says:

    Apologies for the fact that the anti-spam software has been running riot in the lst few days and blocking many comments for no reason: I’m away at the moment and have limited access, so have been slow to pick it up. Sorry.

  24. 24. Peter says:

    Shone – I think there’s a significant difference between having free will as we normally conceive it and an ability to slam on the brakes in the last half second. That said, the ‘free won’t’ business does highlight the fact that Libet’s experiments are not what we’d think of as typical instances of everyday free will.

  25. 25. Eric Thomson says:

    Why would a naturalistic approach lead you to expect neurons to literally be yellow?
    I subjectively hear a loud crash 20 feet away from me. Should my brain be loud? Should it be 20 feet away from me? Why should the violation of such claims worry the naturalist?

    Similarly, why would the naturalist be locked into saying that observing your brain’s visual experience of yellow involves having that same visual experience?

    Sure, it would be nice to have the experience when I study your experience, just as it might be nice to become wealthy when I study wealthy people. But it doesn’t work that way.

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