Who’s In Charge Anyway…

Free Will? Fact or Fiction, Something you will have to decide...

There has been a long standing debate that man is not of free will, which says the universe is predefined in a way which makes us more akin to a roll-a-coaster who is tied to the tracks set to run a given route no matter what the throws of gravity and motion wish.  In turn this logic also says that “man” then is not accountable as if he decides upon an action, it isn’t his decision after all as its all predefined any way and its only his “thinking” it’s his that makes it such.

As its here that neuroscientist  Michael Gazzaniga, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has put forward  that “we are personally responsible agents and are to be held accountable for our actions, even though we live in a determined universe.”  As the driver of this paradox if you will has come to general interest since the medical imaging of the brain became so common place starting back some 30 years ago now. As work in this area makes apparent the clash between the “mechanical” nature of the mind and the impression that people can will their own thoughts and actions separate of that.

As Gazzaniga points to animal studies to create the argument that the brain is in fact “shaped” by the tasks put before it.  As he points out that as the body is a biochemical system, what happens in the mind is in fact “mechanically” determined by the physical brain.  What becomes scary is Gazzaniga points to cases where the mechanics of the physical brain are “damaged” such as in cases where surgery is performed to separate the hemispheres of the brains and the patients “moral” reasoning is then disrupted as if we where to look at this rationally one could argue.  If ones “consciousness” and contained independently then what happens to the physical structure should not matter.

Ok, this might be a little confusing so let’s analogize for simplicity, if your “consciousness” where wine, your (physical) brain would be the wine “bottle”.  So no matter the shape or form of bottle you used, the “wine” stored in the bottle would be the same “wine” and remain unchanged.  No question this is something to think about as note Gazzaniga above relates this to “moral” questions and not computational ones which could/would more closely linked to physical structures.

Yet  Gazzaniga attempts to offer a resolution to the paradox by locating the origin of personal responsibility outside the brain.  He attempts to build the argument that the consequence of a social contract created with two or more persons occurs outside of the brain. As here he neatly removes the physical basis for good or bad behavior however yet leaves the door open to say.  If this is the case, then isn’t it in the “end” built upon the same “combined” physical structures of those engaged, so the argument is also flawed as we are still back to the roll-a-coaster scenario where it is plying the tracks not knowing it is in fact bound…

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About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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