Illusions of Illusions of Free Will

Illusions of Illusions of Free Will

This is the introduction only. The full episode is available via Patreon membership: Thank you for your support!

Free will is the ability to choose between possible courses of action. Many people feel themselves to be the authors of their thoughts, the agents of action and believe this to be true with respect to their decisions.

There is a sense that one could have behaved differently in the past, even though to rewind the tape of life would also remove the present insight. Or as one pop punk band sang it better: the past is only the future with the lights on.

However, most could readily agree that, at the very least, there is not always free will.

For example, a person with Alzheimer's or other type of dementia that severely impairs the ability to perform actions or utilize memory may not have the freedom to choose to behave politely or recognize their loved one. In addiction, it is widely understood that disruptions in the decision-making faculties of the brain lead to similar limitations of choice. Revelations in the neurobiology of drug use disorders continues to shape the moral implications and shift the legal interventions from punitive to rehabilitative.

To take this further, researchers have recently created choice experiments while observing the brain with magnetic resonance imaging and have been able to predict with statistical significance what subjects will choose up to 11 seconds before they are conscious of their choice!

Some argue that even if free will is an illusion, it is an illusion worth preserving. This episode explores different philosophical perspectives and considers what is worth paying attention to including the overlooked mental health benefits of reframing our understanding of free will.

(Music "Breathe" by Bing Sattelites and episode artwork on the podcast website by Emily Dawn)

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