Answering Libet

2014-01-22T17:50:16Z (GMT) by John Ostrowick

Libet (1985) argued that free-will is threatened by his discovery that the RP (readiness potential) measured on an EEG, ramps up as much as 0.8 seconds before any action occurs, and around 0.35 seconds before any conscious mental awareness of choice occurs. Libet claimed that this shows that the brain seems to unconsciously initiate action. Hence, since we typically take it that free choice is conscious, Libet’s work seems to pose a threat to free- will. Näätänen (1985: 549), Keller and Heckhausen (1990, in Libet, 1992: 214) and Pockett et al. (2007: 250-252) have replicated this study. Moreover, recent work by Soon et al. (2008) and Bode et al. (2011), using fMRI, also confirm Libet’s results, finding even longer lead times before action — up to several seconds (Bode et al., 2011: 1, Soon et al., 2008: 4-6). Now, many philosophers have objected to this work. In this paper, I will try to show that these objections do not succeed, and that this evidence does seem to show that we lack free-will. The paper gives a brief response to the question of long-term decisions.

This presentation document was not presented in this form, rather it was "spoken to", as the content was too detailed for a general presentation. The presentation was at the annual PSSA Conference 2014 in Bloemfontein.