So we no longer have freewill?


Reading an article that I found posted on Mind Hacks from the NYT an interesting argument came across: are we responsible for what we might do?

“The attempt to link unconscious bias to actual acts of discrimination may be dubious. But are there other ways to look inside the brain and make predictions about an individual’s future behavior?”

Now technology is moving faster there are more ways to research the functioning of the brain with apparatus like MEG and PET scans. One of the studies in the physiological psychology, Raine, uses PET scans to investigate the brains of murders who were pleading NGRI and ‘normal’ people.

“…neuroscientists are trying to find the factors in the brain associated with violence. PET scans of convicted murderers were first studied in the late 1980s by Adrian Raine, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California; he found that their prefrontal cortexes, areas associated with inhibition, had reduced glucose metabolism and suggested that this might be responsible for their violent behavior.”

A criticism of studies in psychology can be that they are deterministic, almost removing freewill from any behavioural equation. If we start to allow the thought that peoples behaviour is pre-determined and we have no control over this it could have massive implications on the notion of blame in our society.

“Suppose neuroscience could reveal that reason actually plays no role in determining human behavior, he suggests tantalizingly. Suppose I could show you that your intentions and your reasons for your actions are post hoc rationalizations that somehow your brain generates to explain to you what your brain has already done without your conscious participation. If neuroscience could reveal us to be automatons in this respect, Morse is prepared to agree with Greene and Cohen that criminal law would have to abandon its current ideas about responsibility and seek other ways of protecting society.

The NYT’s article is a little long (even I skimmed over a little of it) but it’s an interesting argument that is being raised and could start some interesting debates. You choose what side of the fence you’re on; but until otherwise proved, I’m still a big believer of what Neo said in The Matrix: [Because] I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life, we cannot start to think that those people who commit atrocious acts are not responsible for it.


The Brain on the Stand, JEFFREY ROSEN, March 2007.

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2 Responses to “So we no longer have freewill?”

  1. Richard Beckford August 12, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    I think humans are designed to live together and be interdependent.

    I think that there is no such thing as free will but that it is neccessary to follow laws and social rules in order for humans to live together. Thats why we do follow laws & conventions and thats why we deal with those who do not.

    I 100% believe in determinism. But I also think WE CAN say people are responsible in that people are easily identifiable units to isolate. It is especially valuable to blame the whole person when you are not 100% sure of the cause of the problem.

    I would be interested to know what other people thought of this.

  2. London Counselling September 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    Freewill is up to the person that is wishing for it. Things can be done and be undone by how you follow and disobey certain matters. As to whether or not you’ll follow, it’s already your choice but rules are rules and everything in it shall follow if not observed

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