Which happens first … a conscious decision to do something or the brain activity associated with doing it? Thanks to experiments Benjamin Libet conducted in the 1980s, it seemed that “the timing of … conscious decisions was consistently preceded by several hundred milliseconds of background preparatory brain activity.” It seemed, that is, that our brains had already acted to carry out what we only later consciously decided to do. But in “Neuroscience and Free Will Are Rethinking Their Divorce,” Christian Jarrett says that may be changing. As researcher Dr. John-Dylan Haynes puts it, neuroscience may actually show that “a person’s decisions are not at the mercy of unconscious and early brain waves.”
One thought on “Free will and neuroscience”
Whatever way you slice and dice it, it remains the case that “that which is you” is “that which made the choice”. If conscious awareness is literally an “afterthought” and everything important happened only in the subconscious, it would still be your own subconscious that caused the choice and the action. And if the choice was to commit criminal harm then the appropriate practical modes of correction would be applied to alter the next choice or to protect the rest of us from it (e.g., prison or mental institution).