Sunday, December 11, 2011

John Searle on Free Will


  1. It can be shown experimentally that there is such thing as free will illusion (just one example: neurostimulation can affect which hands people move, even though the experience of free will is intact, 1, 2). What Searle is arguing is that there is also actual free will in addition to the illusion of free will. I feel that this makes his arguments weaker.

    I'm not convinced that free will illusion is not evolutionarily beneficial. The main benefit is credit attribution. It's vital to be able to classify actions to those we did intentionally and to those we did without intention if we want to plan forward and act rationally (if free will is illusion or not is not important). Credit misattribution is something that schizophrenics often have. They don't think their thoughts or actions are their own (Neuroscientist David Eagelman has interesting theory where schizophrenia is fundamentally time perception disorder. He is able to cause credit misattribution in healthy subjects by disrupting their time perception.)

  2. Vitali: "Free will Illusion" is of course not the same as "illusion of free will". There is still optics even though there are optical illusions. Searle (who is a commited materialist)seems to me only to argue that there is a problem philosophically with free will. So instead of saying that "Searle is arguing that there is ALSO actual free will in addition to the illusion of free will", maybe we should say that (he argues that) in addition to free will, there are possibly also certain "free will illusions", which only strenghtens the concept of an actual free will.

    Only if free will is truly free and not an illusion could it be evolutionary beneficial, in my opinion. Free will is invariably bound to intentionality and intentionality moves against the casuality direction of the physical realm. Credit attribution doesn't matter to automata, since there is no one there to credit. Credit misattribution also is only possible because there is a mind.

    I like David Eagleman, by the way.