Mind-Body Philosophy Series Part 13 at Meditation Center

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mind body pic 130001

By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents on April 5 “The Enigma of Free Will,” the thirteenth of 24 installments of the Great Courses series Mind-Body Philosophy.

A sense of being able to choose different courses of action is a clear characteristic of our subjective experience. But is it our sense of freedom that is real, or is free will merely an illusion?

This lecture will focus on both the classic philosophical problem of free will and the way in which questions of free will arise in contemporary scientific research.

Our universe is governed by cause and effect. All that happens is determined by what has happened before. All history is determined. Our lives, all lives, involve a series of choices. Where we are today is the result of a branching tree of choices, good and bad, throughout our lives. But do we really have a choice of which way to think, what actions to take?

Quantum mechanics, one of the best-confirmed scientific theories of all time, tells us how the universe works at a fundamental level. It tells us we don’t know why a particular atom decays at a particular time, and, moreover, that there is nothing to know. The implication of this scientific picture is that the universe is not deterministic, as we typically think. Not every event is determined by earlier events.

So our best science tells us there is a space for free will and responsible decisions. But, wait, how does claiming quantum randomness—that some events happen for no reason—give us free will?

Experiments show how the brain can initiate an action before the person makes a decision. That discovery seems to show that our picture of free will is often wrong. It’s not true in all cases that a moment of decision precedes voluntary action. A person can decide to marry another long before asking. It is in terms of instantaneous spontaneous action that the picture sometimes fails, not in deliberate action of longer duration. Maybe the standard picture—deliberation first, decision initiating action—is right for the kind of free will we really care about: for major choices, for important decisions, even for decisions about whether to do the shopping now or later.

Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook Patrick Grim has provided his students with invaluable insights into issues of philosophy, artificial intelligence, and theoretical biology. Professor Grim was awarded his university’s presidential and chancellor’s awards for teaching excellence and was elected to the Academy of Teachers and Scholars.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.

 

Video Presentation

Mind-Body Philosophy Part 13: “The Enigma of Free Will”

By Frank Simons

Thu, Apr 5, 5:30pm

Meditation Center

Callejón Blanco 4

Free, donations accepted

044 415 156 1950

 

 

 

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