Thursday, June 13, 2013

[PHI 3000] Is it irresponsible to say that free will is an illusion?

In this interview, Daniel Dennett claims that, by saying that neuroscience shows that free will is an illusion, neuroscientists are behaving irresponsibly. In support of this claim, Dennett offers an intuition pump he calls "the nefarious neurosurgeon."

Does this intuition pump show what Dennett thinks it shows? After all, as Dennett says, the neurosurgeon lied to the patient. Perhaps that is why he thinks that what the neurosurgeon did was wrong. But what if neuroscientists really believe that free will is an illusion and that they have the evidence to back that up? Should they lie and say that free will is not an illusion?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I don't think the intuition pump shows that what neurosurgeons are doing is wrong, unless we assume that free will is not an illusion and that the neurosurgeons know that it is not. This is obviously not the case because some neurosurgeons really believe free will is an illusion. I think that if they believe it, there is nothing morally wrong or irresponsible with stating what they believe, but they should be mindful of the impact this may have on people who believe what they say. Nevertheless, I think that if they root their argument against free will in science, they are profoundly confused. The existence of free will is a purely philosophical question. For all we know, the chemical reactions in our brain may be caused by a metaphysical entity that controls our bodies (the soul perhaps) that does have free will. Science can only explore the physical. Anyone who claims that science can answer metaphysical questions should be aware that that is a philosophy attached to science, not science itself.


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