Thursday, November 17, 2011

Free Will And Moral Behavior

Reason's Ronald Bailey has some excellent commentary on Gazzaniga's much-discussed new book about neuroscience and free will.
"Gazzaniga is right to worry. He persuasively cites a 2011 study in which researchers found that inducing disbelief in free will decreased helpfulness and increased aggression among experiment participants. He also notes that other recent studies reported that people were more likely to cheat in psychological experiments after reading passages that encouraged a belief in determinism. The researchers note with irony, “Perhaps, denying free will simply provides the ultimate excuse to behave as one likes.”
We have been over some of this territory in the May We Believe Our Thoughts series:  if we can demonstrate that there are times when our thinking is less free, it follows there are times when it is more free. (I have made a similar argument for altruism, whenever folks try to show that it does not exist.)  Free will versus collection-of-neurons-reacting is not an either-or choice, but a continuum.

HT: Bird Dog at Maggie's

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