Get With the Programme

Wired Science ran an interview between Brandon Keim, a journalist, and Martha Farah, a neuroscientist. They were discussing free will.

Says Martha:

I don’t think “free will” is a very sensible concept, and you don’t need neuroscience to reject it — any mechanistic view of the world is good enough, and indeed you could even argue on purely conceptual grounds that the opposite of determinism is randomness, not free will! Most thoughtful neuroscientists I know have replaced the concept of free will with the concept of rationality — that we select our actions based on a kind of practical reasoning. And there is no conflict between rationality and the mind as a physical system — After all, computers are rational physical systems!

Bearing in mind that Farah and I hail from the same island within the academic archipelago, I thought this sounded like a useful reminder of two things: (i) the logical difficulties with the existence of something like ‘free will’ stem from a mechanistic view of the universe, going back to the Ancient Greeks, and isn’t a recent invention by neuroscientists; (ii) if you don’t like determinism, you should realise that it’s absence means randomness – you’re screwed either way.

No, I don’t like it either.

Is Free Will an Illusion? | Wired Science from

Published by

Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *