Michael Egnor: Does brain stimulation research challenge free will?
|October 13, 2018||Posted by News under Mind, Naturalism|
If we can be forced to *want* something, is the will still free?
If an electrode is applied to a specific brain region during “awake” neurosurgery, the patient may experience a strong desire to perform a related action and may even be mistaken about whether he has done so. For example, the study Movement intention after parietal cortex stimulation in humans (Karen Reilly et al, 2009), cited over 100 times at Pub Med, reported on patients undergoing awake brain surgery …
Reilly’s work appears to demonstrate that a sense of agency—and free will—can be elicited by direct brain stimulation. It implies that free will is probably an illusion. Materialists frequently cite this and similar research as evidence that the experiential illusion of free will is created by natural activities within the brain: …
The materialist interpretation of Reilly’s work is a misunderstanding of what the research actually shows. However, a genuine understanding requires a bit of background on the nature of agency in human beings.
The classical understanding of the soul derived from Plato and Aristotle—which is, I think, correct—is that the immaterial aspect of the human soul consists of the intellect and the will. The intellect thinks abstract thoughts about universal things (mathematics, morality, etc.) and the will follows on the immaterial intellect. The will is naturally free in the sense that it is not determined by matter. More.
See also: How can we believe in naturalism if we have no choice?