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Libet

keithprosser
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8/27/2016 7:18:34 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
Benjamin Libet discovered that when we perform some action (such as pushing a button) there is a detectable build up of brain activity related to the muscle movement before there any consciousness of any desire to act.

The experiment is described in more detail here
https://en.wikipedia.org...

I understand this to mean that our actions are decided on unconsciously (or pre-consciously) so our decisions are made before free will could affect them, even if free will is supposed to exist.

I see Libet's result as an empirical disproof of free will. Does anyone agree or disagree?
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,255
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8/27/2016 8:12:53 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/27/2016 7:18:34 PM, keithprosser wrote:
Benjamin Libet discovered that when we perform some action (such as pushing a button) there is a detectable build up of brain activity related to the muscle movement before there any consciousness of any desire to act.

The experiment is described in more detail here
https://en.wikipedia.org...

I understand this to mean that our actions are decided on unconsciously (or pre-consciously) so our decisions are made before free will could affect them, even if free will is supposed to exist.

I see Libet's result as an empirical disproof of free will. Does anyone agree or disagree?

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n7
Posts: 1,360
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8/28/2016 12:02:01 AM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/27/2016 7:18:34 PM, keithprosser wrote:
Benjamin Libet discovered that when we perform some action (such as pushing a button) there is a detectable build up of brain activity related to the muscle movement before there any consciousness of any desire to act.

The experiment is described in more detail here
https://en.wikipedia.org...

I understand this to mean that our actions are decided on unconsciously (or pre-consciously) so our decisions are made before free will could affect them, even if free will is supposed to exist.

I see Libet's result as an empirical disproof of free will. Does anyone agree or disagree?
Just because our brains decide to press one button or another before our will doesn't entail our brains decide on huge important decisions before our will.

Also, Libet believed in free will and used his experiments to argue for it. Even though our brains decide which button to press, the individual could stop his readiness potential. People still had the "power of veto" or what Libet called "Free won't".
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Furyan5
Posts: 1,228
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8/28/2016 11:07:57 AM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/28/2016 12:02:01 AM, n7 wrote:
At 8/27/2016 7:18:34 PM, keithprosser wrote:
Benjamin Libet discovered that when we perform some action (such as pushing a button) there is a detectable build up of brain activity related to the muscle movement before there any consciousness of any desire to act.

The experiment is described in more detail here
https://en.wikipedia.org...

I understand this to mean that our actions are decided on unconsciously (or pre-consciously) so our decisions are made before free will could affect them, even if free will is supposed to exist.

I see Libet's result as an empirical disproof of free will. Does anyone agree or disagree?
Just because our brains decide to press one button or another before our will doesn't entail our brains decide on huge important decisions before our will.

Also, Libet believed in free will and used his experiments to argue for it. Even though our brains decide which button to press, the individual could stop his readiness potential. People still had the "power of veto" or what Libet called "Free won't".

His experiment is flawed. All it proved was that external events can alter our choices. He actually proved free will doesn't exist but his beliefs stopped him from from seeing it. The only subjective way of proving free will exists is making yourself believe it doesn't. But will does not determine beliefs. Beliefs determine our will.
keithprosser
Posts: 2,084
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8/28/2016 11:48:27 AM
Posted: 3 months ago
His experiment is flawed. All it proved was that external events can alter our choices.
I don't think I get why that is.... can you explain?
Furyan5
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8/28/2016 10:43:31 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/28/2016 11:48:27 AM, keithprosser wrote:
His experiment is flawed. All it proved was that external events can alter our choices.
I don't think I get why that is.... can you explain?

Note that the experiment involved the subject noting the location of the red dot when they first felt the urge to act. This requires a shift in thought patterns from the "urge to act" to "checking location of red dot" and then "act". This would account for the delay between "preparing to act" and "acting".

A belief in free will is the belief that in any situation we could have made a different decision without any difference in the precluding conditions. Choosing coffee today and orange juice tomorrow proves nothing. Even changing your mind a second later proves nothing because the conditions have changed. Sugar levels, hormones, chemical levels in the blood such as dopomine, are constantly changing, affecting our moods and these directly influence our decisions. All the evidence seems to point to determinism being true, but it's not conclusive.
keithprosser
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8/29/2016 5:41:12 AM
Posted: 3 months ago
I get what you say, but let me suggest an alternative theory.

I will make a couple of reasonable assumptions: 1) the brain operates entirely mechanistically 2) awareness of X means that a pattern of neural activity exists in the brain that encodes X.

Note that without such a 'representational' pattern awareness does not occur (and the presence of such a representation would cause awareness of X even if there was no X 'out there' to be aware of).

Using principle 1, physical processes in the brain cause a build up of 'readiness potential' until it reaches the point where the brain directs the muscle movements required to push the button. Using principle 2, there would be no awareness of that going on because although it occured inside the brain that is not sufficient to produce awareness of it - awareness requires the existence of a pattern of neural activity explicitly for the purpose of representation.

Associated with the physical process of 'readiness potential build up' that leads to the button push described above, the brain also produces (by equally mechanistic means) a pattern of neural activity will encode 'I have the desire to push the button now'. It does this for the purpose of producing a degree of self-awareness (because being self-aware is an evolutionary advantage).

Libet's measurements indicate the production of the neural representation lags the build up of readiness potential so the readiness potential reaches its trigger point slightly ahead of the neural representation encoding 'I want to push the button now' being fully formed and able to produce awareness.

So what happened is that a purely mechanical process in the brain caused the button push. But we are not aware of the mechainistic reality - what we become aware is the fictitious notion that we acted because 'we wanted to'.

This is because while self-awareness is an evolutionary advantage there is no reasonable way for the brain to know its own 'modus operandi' as it evolving. Instead of evolving self-awareness via a literal and objective model of the self (ie one in terms of 'readiness potential to do something') we evolved a self-model based on subjective analogs to the objective reality ('wanting to do something').

I think the above can be shortened into saying that Libet's result is entirely compatible with the notion that what we are aware is what our brains think happened not what does happen, even if those happenings are in the brain itself.
Furyan5
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8/29/2016 12:53:52 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/29/2016 5:41:12 AM, keithprosser wrote:
I get what you say, but let me suggest an alternative theory.

I will make a couple of reasonable assumptions: 1) the brain operates entirely mechanistically 2) awareness of X means that a pattern of neural activity exists in the brain that encodes X.

Note that without such a 'representational' pattern awareness does not occur (and the presence of such a representation would cause awareness of X even if there was no X 'out there' to be aware of).

Using principle 1, physical processes in the brain cause a build up of 'readiness potential' until it reaches the point where the brain directs the muscle movements required to push the button. Using principle 2, there would be no awareness of that going on because although it occured inside the brain that is not sufficient to produce awareness of it - awareness requires the existence of a pattern of neural activity explicitly for the purpose of representation.

Associated with the physical process of 'readiness potential build up' that leads to the button push described above, the brain also produces (by equally mechanistic means) a pattern of neural activity will encode 'I have the desire to push the button now'. It does this for the purpose of producing a degree of self-awareness (because being self-aware is an evolutionary advantage).

Libet's measurements indicate the production of the neural representation lags the build up of readiness potential so the readiness potential reaches its trigger point slightly ahead of the neural representation encoding 'I want to push the button now' being fully formed and able to produce awareness.

So what happened is that a purely mechanical process in the brain caused the button push. But we are not aware of the mechainistic reality - what we become aware is the fictitious notion that we acted because 'we wanted to'.

This is because while self-awareness is an evolutionary advantage there is no reasonable way for the brain to know its own 'modus operandi' as it evolving. Instead of evolving self-awareness via a literal and objective model of the self (ie one in terms of 'readiness potential to do something') we evolved a self-model based on subjective analogs to the objective reality ('wanting to do something').

I think the above can be shortened into saying that Libet's result is entirely compatible with the notion that what we are aware is what our brains think happened not what does happen, even if those happenings are in the brain itself.

What if the brain consists of 3 separate entities operating through 1 processor. One takes control when a threat is detected while the other two work on emotions and logic. Whichever of these two provides the strongest motivation, determines our actions. The seat of consciousness resides in the logical entity and will try to explain our actions in a logical manner, even when the action was initiated by one of the other two entities.
keithprosser
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8/29/2016 1:49:22 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
Interesting.. my first thought is there isn't much threat or emotion in the Libet set up.. can you explain how the timings Libet uncovered work in that scheme?
Furyan5
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8/29/2016 3:15:20 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/29/2016 1:49:22 PM, keithprosser wrote:
Interesting.. my first thought is there isn't much threat or emotion in the Libet set up.. can you explain how the timings Libet uncovered work in that scheme?

Well, pushing the button is a logical brain function. There is no emotional or threat involvement. It would be interesting to repeat the experiment where pushing the button causes pain to someone else. Then we would be looking at a emotional/logical decision. I would expect activity in a different region of the brain and a longer period between awareness and action.
sdavio
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8/29/2016 7:05:02 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
I've never understood why it couldn't be the case that what is measured in the brain before the subject manifests the fact that they've made the choice is simply the unmanifested choice. Rather than being a difference between preconscious physical determination and subsequent illusion of choice, couldn't it be a difference between scientifically visible symptoms of original choice-making, and then subsequently the vocalization of that?
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
dylancatlow
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8/30/2016 3:36:01 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/29/2016 7:05:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
I've never understood why it couldn't be the case that what is measured in the brain before the subject manifests the fact that they've made the choice is simply the unmanifested choice. Rather than being a difference between preconscious physical determination and subsequent illusion of choice, couldn't it be a difference between scientifically visible symptoms of original choice-making, and then subsequently the vocalization of that?

The subjects are put in front of a clock and told to record when the intention to move their hand enters their mind, which always occurs prior to the actual hand moving. The experimenters take for granted that all brain activity prior to when the subjects decide to move their hand (as identified by the subjects) is not freely chosen. The readiness potential seems to occur before the subjects become conscious of their desire to move their hand.
sdavio
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8/30/2016 6:37:38 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/30/2016 3:36:01 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/29/2016 7:05:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
I've never understood why it couldn't be the case that what is measured in the brain before the subject manifests the fact that they've made the choice is simply the unmanifested choice. Rather than being a difference between preconscious physical determination and subsequent illusion of choice, couldn't it be a difference between scientifically visible symptoms of original choice-making, and then subsequently the vocalization of that?

The subjects are put in front of a clock and told to record when the intention to move their hand enters their mind, which always occurs prior to the actual hand moving. The experimenters take for granted that all brain activity prior to when the subjects decide to move their hand (as identified by the subjects) is not freely chosen. The readiness potential seems to occur before the subjects become conscious of their desire to move their hand.

I can't tell if you're refuting what I said or agree, lol. It seems obvious to me that, if I am to express my intention to do something, then there must be brain activity prior to that expression itself, because I must decide to do enact the expression. The expression alone constitutes another act. I don't really see any way of us knowing whether or not someone is aware of their own intention to do something, because their expression of intent would always come after that. If we knew some brain-state which we could just correlate directly to awareness / decision-making then the problem would not exist in the first place. Again this reminds me of things like quantum physics etc, where certain people seem more willing to take difficult scientific results and change our entire metaphysical and logical worldview to fit the data rather than admitting any epistemic limits to the given mode of description.

The readiness potential seems to occur before the subjects become conscious of their desire to move their hand.

What is the objective empirical standard for measuring this difference? How do we determine empirically that a person is in a state of desire, as opposed to being in a state of desire which they are also aware of?
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
dylancatlow
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8/30/2016 8:05:42 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/30/2016 6:37:38 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/30/2016 3:36:01 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/29/2016 7:05:02 PM, sdavio wrote:
I've never understood why it couldn't be the case that what is measured in the brain before the subject manifests the fact that they've made the choice is simply the unmanifested choice. Rather than being a difference between preconscious physical determination and subsequent illusion of choice, couldn't it be a difference between scientifically visible symptoms of original choice-making, and then subsequently the vocalization of that?

The subjects are put in front of a clock and told to record when the intention to move their hand enters their mind, which always occurs prior to the actual hand moving. The experimenters take for granted that all brain activity prior to when the subjects decide to move their hand (as identified by the subjects) is not freely chosen. The readiness potential seems to occur before the subjects become conscious of their desire to move their hand.

I can't tell if you're refuting what I said or agree, lol. It seems obvious to me that, if I am to express my intention to do something, then there must be brain activity prior to that expression itself, because I must decide to do enact the expression. The expression alone constitutes another act. I don't really see any way of us knowing whether or not someone is aware of their own intention to do something, because their expression of intent would always come after that. If we knew some brain-state which we could just correlate directly to awareness / decision-making then the problem would not exist in the first place. Again this reminds me of things like quantum physics etc, where certain people seem more willing to take difficult scientific results and change our entire metaphysical and logical worldview to fit the data rather than admitting any epistemic limits to the given mode of description.

The readiness potential seems to occur before the subjects become conscious of their desire to move their hand.

What is the objective empirical standard for measuring this difference? How do we determine empirically that a person is in a state of desire, as opposed to being in a state of desire which they are also aware of?

"I've never understood why it couldn't be the case that what is measured in the brain before the subject manifests the fact that they've made the choice is simply the unmanifested choice. "

Since the readiness potential occurs before the subjects are aware of any desire to move their hand, it's assumed that what is measured in the brain before the choice is manifested is not an "unmanifested choice". It's hardly an unreasonable assumption, but it's possible that people are in fact exercising their free will without knowing exactly when they've begun to do so, which would totally undermine the experiment.
dylancatlow
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8/30/2016 8:14:26 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/30/2016 6:37:38 PM, sdavio wrote:
At 8/30/2016 3:36:01 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/29/2016 7:05:02 PM, sdavio wrote:


The readiness potential seems to occur before the subjects become conscious of their desire to move their hand.

What is the objective empirical standard for measuring this difference? How do we determine empirically that a person is in a state of desire, as opposed to being in a state of desire which they are also aware of?

There isn't really any objective standard other than what the subjects tell the scientists.
dylancatlow
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8/30/2016 8:19:43 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
Libet's experiments are at best evidence against a very naive conception of free will against which a very strong case can be made already.
ShabShoral
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8/30/2016 8:55:56 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/27/2016 8:12:53 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/27/2016 7:18:34 PM, keithprosser wrote:
Benjamin Libet discovered that when we perform some action (such as pushing a button) there is a detectable build up of brain activity related to the muscle movement before there any consciousness of any desire to act.

The experiment is described in more detail here
https://en.wikipedia.org...

I understand this to mean that our actions are decided on unconsciously (or pre-consciously) so our decisions are made before free will could affect them, even if free will is supposed to exist.

I see Libet's result as an empirical disproof of free will. Does anyone agree or disagree?

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keithprosser
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8/30/2016 9:51:53 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
Libet's experiments are at best evidence against a very naive conception of free will against which a very strong case can be made already.

You hear? A strong case can be made already! Oy vey!

I am not sure there is a very naive conception of free will, unless there is also a 'slightly less naive' one and 'quite sophisticated one', or if there are what they are!

Or to be less flippant, what conception or version of free will is not affected by Libet's findings?
dylancatlow
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8/31/2016 4:34:08 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/30/2016 9:51:53 PM, keithprosser wrote:
Libet's experiments are at best evidence against a very naive conception of free will against which a very strong case can be made already.

You hear? A strong case can be made already! Oy vey!

I am not sure there is a very naive conception of free will, unless there is also a 'slightly less naive' one and 'quite sophisticated one', or if there are what they are!

Or to be less flippant, what conception or version of free will is not affected by Libet's findings?

By "very naive conception of free will," I mean one that regards humans as entirely responsible for all their thoughts and actions. One that wouldn't, for example, even think of attributing a serial killer's murderous tendencies to some inherited feature of their brain or life history, insisting that their crimes are totally attributable to freely chosen evil, period. I don't find that conception of free will plausible. I do, however, remain open minded toward the possibility that humans have the ability to "nudge" their behavior in certain directions within the bounds of freedom afforded by quantum indeterminacy, which in principle permits a far narrower range of possibilities than most are accustomed to.

The results of Libet's experiments leave room for free will until and unless the following assumptions are proven: (1) that the subjects will necessarily follow through with their unconscious impulse and have no say in whether that impulse gets realized (2) the impulse in question came about for deterministic reasons. If humans have free will, then the subjects are presumably there on their own choice, and in agreeing to move their hands, intend to have impulses to move their hand. Indeed, such impulses wouldn't arise had the subjects not agreed to move their hand. Thus, the subjects would be freely choosing to have impulses, and freely deciding whether or not to realize them. In other words, they would be intending to have intentions, delegating the timing of when these intentions should arise to the subconscious mind (3) the subjects are sufficiently self-aware to notice precisely when their desire appears on the scene (4) the results of the experiment can be generalized to other contexts. It's not necessarily the case that the amount of freedom humans possess is enough to allow the subjects to move their hand at more than one time; "when the time feels right" might be one of those things that are more or less intuitive and subconscious.
Discipulus_Didicit
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9/7/2016 6:29:22 AM
Posted: 3 months ago
The only subjective way of proving free will exists is making yourself believe it doesn't.

How can you make yourself believe in free will if it doesn't exist? If free will doesn't exist that means we can't make ourselves believe in anything, we juat do or don't believe it.
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Furyan5
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9/7/2016 2:13:47 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 9/7/2016 6:29:22 AM, Discipulus_Didicit wrote:
The only subjective way of proving free will exists is making yourself believe it doesn't.

How can you make yourself believe in free will if it doesn't exist? If free will doesn't exist that means we can't make ourselves believe in anything, we juat do or don't believe it.

Exactly. You can't make yourself believe anything. You either do or you don't. Choice is not an option. It's determined.

Determined by what?
The knowledge and information you possess and the level of understanding your intellect permits. Neither of which is a choice.

Basically, the facts are all there but whether you get it depends on your I.Q. Most people don't.