Dear Prof. Craig,
what does the Libet-Experiment indicate about free Will?
A US-american Scientist, Libet, conducted in 1979 an experiment involving the measurement of Brain-Activity during a controlled Decision-making Process, in order to better understand relations between neurological (physical) phenomena and the activity of the will.
The observation was, that:
1. brain activity occurs, then after a delay
2. one is oneself aware that a decision has become made, then after a delay (for the body to react)
3. the decision becomes made.
The delay between (2) and (3) can become accounted simply by transmission delays from the brain to the body. Of interest is the delay between (1) and (2).
Some (neurobiologists) claim, the gap between (1) and (2) demonstrates that the brain makes the decision and then the person experiences the decision (and simply associates the decision to his own free doing, as opposed to that of the body).
But a few things do not seem (to me) in order here. E. g.
a. (2) merely marks, when the person is, at another level of awareness so-to-speak, aware of his decision. But making a decision and becoming aware of the same are prima facie distinct phenomen, and thus should not be assumed to occur simultaneously. In order to disprove that a free-will decision has occurred, it seems one would have to collapse these two notions.
b. Assume now, decision-making and awareness of the same were to occur simultaneously. The so-called "readiness potential" in (1) is only measured in the times in a small neighbourhood of the activity. Could it be that this readiness potential regularly spikes, and that this be simply a regular phenomen which puts one into a state to make a decision? In this case, the compatibility of free-will and this preempting brain-activity are perfectly compatible.
My objections aside, I would really like to hear your professional opinion of this.
* The existence of free-will is among the deepest and most difficult problems in Philosophy/Science. If this problem were solved, and the Libet-Experiment were to have conclusively shown that human decision-making is not free but determined, there would then be consensus. Is there Consensus about the interpretation of the observations in the Libet-Experiment? Is there Consensus about the Free-Will Problem?
* What at all possible do the observations of the Libet-Experiment actually indicate?
* Some simply take the approach of redefining free Will as a phenomen, whereby although the decision is determined, its causes is truly the person who does the deciding. In this way, some thing that Determinism is no problem at all for free Will --- rather the definition of free Will could be rethought. What do you hold of this approach?
Thank you for reading and thank you for your work!
With kind Regards,
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