• Eugen
    Hi guys, I really need your help! This question is addressed especially to those familiar with Gazzaniga's work. I have recently re-listened Gazzaniga's ''Whose in charge?'' and to be honest, I don't know how to interpret it. I listened to the book for the first time in 2015, and what I understood then was the following:
    1. ''We are determined, yet free..." - our brain is indeed a determined machine, but it is determined by the physical laws that we have no control over, and our strongly emergent minds. We don't identify with the laws of physics, but we do identify with our minds, so there's freedom.
    2. ''... and responsible'' - in the author's view, the responsibility arises only when human interact with each other. So here comes the second strong emergent layer that brings with it the responsibility. I am not going to go deep into this issue, even if I don't agree with this idea (I truly believe there is personal responsibility, e.g. eating less in order to stay in shape).
    Long story short, he uses the concept of strong emergence in order to account for freedom and responsibility, even if he considers everything being determined. This is a compatibilistic view, and the main idea is that we really play a role in the chain of causes.

    But after the second listening, I am not so sure he actually means that. I've also read some of his opinions online, and for me, his view is a bit confusing.
    So everything goes well with the concept of strong emergence and how our consciousness constrains our brain in downward causation. But then he makes a sudden move, trying to dismiss the old idea of free will, in which a unitary entity pulls all the strings, so he introduces the Interpreter, an entity located in the left hemisphere, which role is to make us believe that there's a unitary ''I" who decided, when in fact all our decisions are taken by the unconscious brain. Well, from this moment, things get a bit contradictory, because he basically endorses an epiphenomenalistic view. One may argue that he just wanted just to show that the unity of the mind is an illusion created by the Interpreter, whose only role is to provide us with explanations for our actions. He gives examples of split-brain patients justifying their decisions by confabulating, when in fact their choices were taken by the brain mechanisms. So doesn't this mean we're lying to ourselves? When I always choose vanilla instead of chocolate, I do this because I like it, or because my brain made me do it and my Interpreter lies to me saying I choose because I like? Gazzaniga is not clear about that, and that smells like epiphenomenalism.
    He actually does not dismiss that, and he jumps directly to the idea that being just a mechanism is not important, because what really saves us is the interaction between people. And I was like ''Wait... what!?! Have you forgotten about the mind? I thought that made us free". It was like he simply threw it out of the window after he used it in the first part of the book.

    So after the second listening, I am confused because it looks like he endorses epiphenomenalism, completely throwing the mind out of the decision process, but he oddly saves the freedom and responsibility in the interaction between us.
    So why bother explaining about the mind's emergence and downward causation if it doesn't play a role? Why not just say we are robots, but the interaction between us makes us humans? How come we're responsible if our brains make mechanical decisions? It doesn't look like a compatibilistic view, but more like a contradiction.

    So was my first view of the book the correct one, or the guy is just simply confused?
  • Gnomon
    Long story short, he uses the concept of strong emergence in order to account for freedom and responsibility, even if he considers everything being determined. This is a compatibilistic view, and the main idea is that we really play a role in the chain of causes.Eugen
    I wasn't familar with Gazzaniga's opinion on Free Will, but I suppose you are referring to his article : Free Will Is an Illusion, but You’re Still Responsible for Your Actions . In any case, I agree with his compatibility claim, and the role of Emergence. I discussed a similar concept in my blog under the title : The Paradox of Freewill. :smile:

    The Paradox of Freewill : http://bothandblog5.enformationism.info/page13.html
  • Eugen
    Unfortunately, I couldn't read the article. I was referring mainly to his book ''Whose in charge?'', but also to some other articles.
    At first glance, I would describe his view as the following: (I) brain = matter; (II) brain generates mind through a strong emergent process; (III) mind has other fundamental laws; (IV) mind constrains the brain; (V) we can identify ourselves with our minds, so we constrain the brain; (VI) therefore, we are free.
    But sometimes I understand something else: brain is matter; I and II are the same, but then it comes the so-called Interpreter, which creates us the illusion of unity. I suspect he only wants to show us that the mind is composed of many parts, and that the Interpreter's role is to narrate. But one can also deduce that Gazzaniga endorses epiphenomenalism. I don't think he does, I think he only wants to remain a physicalist who just denies a unitary entity that pulls the strings, but who keeps the mind at the center of our actions.
    Do you think he endorses epiphenomenalism?
  • Gnomon
    Do you think he endorses epiphenomenalism?Eugen
    I haven't read his book, The Ethical Brain. But according to a brief net search, he seems to be trying to have it both ways. As a Neurologist, you would expect him to lean toward physical determinism. But as a Philosopher, he may see that Freewill is a necessary assumption to justify ethical behavior. And that is essentially my own position. But proving it logically and empirically is difficult. Physical determinism is undeniable in classical physics, but it becomes untenable when Quantum physics is considered. That's why I referred to the notion of "Freedom within Determinism" as a seeming Paradox. I'm guessing that Gazzaniga is not a hard-core Epiphenomenalist. Here's a book review that gives one interpretation of his intended meaning. :smile:

    The Ethical Brain : The aim of his Part III is to reconcile the materialist idea that brain activity is determined with the notion of moral responsibility,which normally depends upon the idea that we human beings possess freewill

    Freedom within determinism : So, it seems that any self-determination or freedom-from-causation we humans possess must be found in that tiny statistical gap between cause & effect. You might call that an “odds of the gaps” argument.

    Paradox : a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.
  • Eugen
    I read this review, but I am not sure if Gazzaniga would agree with it. I believe he is a bit confusing, because, on one hand, he clearly says that the mind is strong emergent, it has its own new laws, and that it constrains the brain. I also think he could have ended his book here. But then he says that the brain cannot be controled by us, and that the brains takes the decisions, and we are just interpreting its actions. And that is a bit contradictory. Does the mind play a role or not? That would be my question for Gazzaniga. Personally, I think his answer would be affirmative. He has a chapter where he actually thinks that people with brain damage, like schizophrenics, should be held responsible for their actions, and ''the brain made me do it'' is not a valid statement. I also think he doesn't say that mind is quantum, and that he uses QM just to validate the strong emergence. Finally, I believe he introduced the Interpreter because in order to remain physicalit, you have to deny a ''self'', but he mentions that there is an ''essence'' of us, only that it is distributed.
    Nonetheless, I find Gazzaniga hard to be interpreted 100% correctly. It is hard to reconcile ''There is no free will..." with ''...but people are free and we are the ultimate agents of our actions''. So this is why I am not entirely sure about his optinion.

    I have also read your blog, and I would like to ask you if you find free will in the quantum realm, in the hazard, or if the mind is responsible, at least partially, for our actions. When it comes to mind, I believe ''probabilities'' are for those analyzing from outside, but the mind itself isn't. What do you think?
  • Gnomon
    And that is a bit contradictory.Eugen
    The appearance of contradiction is inherent in Paradox.

    if you find free will in the quantum realmEugen
    No. I find Chance & Possibility & Probability in the mindless Quantum Realm. The human mind is simply a function of the brain, and it is programmed by evolution to seek-out the best option for continuation of life. The brain is a meat computer, with no place for Wisdom. But the human mind is Natural Intelligence, with the flexibility to re-program itself.

    The "statistical gaps" of the quantum level of reality are merely convenient analogies for philosophers to use in constructing justifications for Freewill. The mind is a Choice Machine, and reality does provide some real options from which to choose. Mythical Fate & Destiny, and Physical Determinism, assume there are no gaps, leaving no room for human choice. But on the Quantum level, physical Change is never Inevitable, but merely Probable. So, the Chance element of our statistical world does allow some freedom for intentional choice.

    Mechanical non-human statistics is based on Cause & Effect. But Bayesian statistics makes allowances for human beliefs & intentions to become real world causes. As Hume pointed out, we often assume that Cause is directly linked to Effect. But we can't prove it empirically. All we see physically is a Before & After relationship. Yet the metaphysical mind can "see" opportunities in the intermediate realm of Possibility. From a conventional classical Physics perspective, this kind of argument may sound kind of spooky, but the Enformationism worldview proposes a new way of looking at the Material world, in terms of malleable Information, which is both Matter & Mind. There are more arguments in the Blog, that attempt to make sense of those apparent Paradoxes in natural, yet unconventional, terms.

    or if the mind is responsible, at least partially, for our actionsEugen
    Yes, as many philosophers have concluded, Ethics & Morality are founded upon the assumption of Freewill, which cannot be proven empirically. If so, the Mind is partly responsible for the consequences of our choices. But only to the extent that it can overcome our evolutionary programming. There's more along these lines in the blog. At the bottom of each page, the Search box will find instances of terms like : "Freewill" or "Free Will". :nerd:
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