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Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Anaximander
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
George Berkeley
Isaiah Berlin
Richard J. Bernstein
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
Michael Burke
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Gorgias
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
Sam Harris
William Hasker
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
Heraclitus
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Leucippus
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
C. Lloyd Morgan
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
Alasdair MacIntyre
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
Parmenides
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Porphyry
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Protagoras
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
Isabelle Stengers
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
Voltaire
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
W.G.Ward
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Terrence Deacon
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A.O.Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Martin J. Klein
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Abraham Pais
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
John Stachel
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Vlatko Vedral
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek

Presentations

Biosemiotics
Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
 
Michael Gazzaniga

Michael Gazzaniga is a major founder of the field of cognitive neuroscience. Like the earlier field of cognitive science, which borrowed much from behaviorism, cognitive neuroscience has a strong deterministic flavor. "We live in a determined universe," says Gazzaniga, ignoring quantum indeterminism, and "the brain is determined, but the person is free," a view consistent with modern compatibilism.

Gazzaniga is the director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the director of the Law and Neuroscience Project funded by the MacArthur Foundation, and the president of the Cognitive Neuroscience Institute. In his studies of “split-brain” patients (initiated under the direction of Roger Sperry), whose corpus callosum has been cut to prevent epileptic fits, Gazzaniga discovered an essential asymmetry between human brain hemispheres. Information from the right hemisphere, about the left visual field and somatosensory signals from the left side of the body, is no longer transmitted to the left hemisphere. It does not reach the language capabilities of the left brain, where the conscious mind generates the explanations and reasons for its actions, generally after the fact. The mind is not conscious of information it does not receive, leading Gazzaniga to a theory of consciousness backed by the latest research in neuroscience.

In his 2005 book, The Ethical Brain, Gazzaniga devoted a chapter to what he calls "those old chestnuts - free will and personal responsibility." He says

The logic goes like this: The brain determines the mind, and the brain is a physical entity, subject to ail the rules of the physical world. The physical world is determined, so our brains must also be determined. If our brains are determined, and the brain is the necessary and sufficient organ that enables the mind, we are then left with these questions: Are the thoughts that arise from our mind also determined? Is the free will we seem to experience just an illusion? And if free will is an illusion, must we revise our concepts of what it means to be personally responsible for our actions?

Neuroscience [also] tells us that by the time any of us consciously experience something, the brain has already done its work. When we become consciously aware of making a decision, the brain has already made it happen. This raises the question, Are we out of the loop? It is one thing to worry about diminished responsibility due to insanity or brain disease, but now the normal person appears to be on the deterministic book as well. Should we abandon the concept of personal responsibility? I don't think so. We need to distinguish among brains, minds, and personhood. People are free and therefore responsible for their actions; brains are not responsible. (pp.88-89)

Gazzaniga describes a very simplistic view of "the Philosophical Stance on Free Will."
Philosophers have long debated the nature and existence of free will, a seemingly essential concept if we are to hold and value the idea of personal responsibility. Without getting into the academic details of these views, there are two primary and opposing views: that we have free will, and that we don't.
Gazzaniga mistakenly says that indeterminists are metaphysicians
Those who believe in free will (indeterminists) believe that some x factor — whether it's the "ghost in the machine," the soul, the mind, or the spirit — allows us to make choices and determine our actions and even our destiny by acting upon and changing the physical world and our path in it.
He does not acknowledge those determinists who are compatibilists
Those who don't accept free will (determinists) believe we live in a predetermined world — whether it's caused by fate, preordination, or genetic hard-wiring — where every action, human and otherwise, is inevitable.

In the rational world of science, the question arises, If determinism is true, what does the determining? Traditionally, genes have been implicated as the predictors of our destiny. Stephen Jay Gould, by no means an advocate for the idea of genetic determinism, explained the theory by stating that "if we are programmed to be what we are [by our genes] then [our] traits are ineluctable. We may, at best, channel them, but we cannot change them either by will, education or culture." Some processes are largely determined by our genes, but many of our traits are not entirely encoded in our genes. Our environment and chance also play a role in determining our traits and behaviors.

While genes build our brains, it is our brains, actively making millions of decisions per second, that ultimately enable our cognition and behavior. So it would seem that if we are to look at the issue of free will today, the brain is the place to look. Is the brain a deterministic organ, genetically hard-wired to carry out actions over which we have no control? Or is the brain — the home to the mind, the ghost in the machine — something capable of free will? (pp.90-91)

In his recent book, Who’s In Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain, Gazzaniga’s clear prose style and frequent humor make for easy reading, but a fuller understanding of the neuroscience requires more than just text. The book has only one illustration. It needs many more to explain Gazzaniga’s split-brain experiments. Fortunately, in his 2009 Gifford Lectures (Lecture 1, Lecture 2, Lecture 3, Lecture 4, Lecture 5, Lecture 6), Gazzaniga reviews the extraordinary discoveries of neuroscience that explain the mind as something embodied in the brain, but also as software to the brain’s hardware, a kind of abstract non-physical information that is nevertheless capable of exerting “downward causation” on the physical world.

It is essential to separate the scientific question of freedom from the social/cultural question of moral responsibility
We live in a determined universe, he says, and the mind is not free from the causal laws of nature. But he finds the kind of freedom needed for moral responsibility is not some indeterminism inside the brain but in our social interactions.

Gazzaniga’s research found that the right hemisphere of the brain is poor at making inferences, similar to the whole brain of children younger than four years and the primates. On the other side, the developed human left hemisphere excels at inferences, constantly searching for patterns that can “make sense” of what is going on, bringing order out of chaos, and giving us answers to “why?” questions by discovering causes behind phenomena. Gazzaniga calls this our “Interpreter Module,” which “continually explains the world using the inputs it has from the current cognitive state and cues from the surroundings.” This ability to articulate stories that explains what is going on Gazzaniga describes as a “phase shift” between humans and other animals.

In his split-brain studies, Gazzaniga showed that the right brain is “conscious” of things going on in the left visual field. Consciousness is thus a local phenomenon, he says, indeed happening in many places, but the Interpreter is only conscious of the information that it receives. A lesion somewhere along the optic nerve or in the primary visual cortex leaves the patient “conscious” of a blind spot. A lesion in the visual associative cortex, however, leaves the patient unconscious of the blind spot. Consciousness is then the result of a constellation of local processes, information from which must reach the Interpreter in the left brain if it is show up in the narrative the Interpreter is generating.

William James said that we focus our attention on one of the myriad of sensations in the “blooming, buzzing confusion” of our unconscious, and this one sensation or thought bubbles up into our “stream of consciousness.” In Bernard Baars’ Global Workspace Theory, there is an executive function on the stage in a “Theater of Consciousness” selectively paying attention to untold numbers of audience members shouting to be heard. Michael Gazzaniga has developed neurophysical evidence for these profound ideas.

Gazzaniga found that his Interpreter can go overboard in its attempts to find patterns and causes. Trying to bring order out of chaos, it continues to search for a pattern where none exist. When presented with lights flashing 80 percent of the time above a line and 20 percent below, animals (and our right brains) will maximize their outcomes by always guessing above the line. But the Interpreter does “frequency matching,” guessing above 80 percent and below 20 percent of the time, for a 64 percent success rate. This obviously non-adaptive behavior evolved, says Gazzaniga, because it made our species more tenacious and more successful at developing theories about how the world works.

This discovery may explain the tendency of many scientists and most philosophers to explain away randomness as a positive contributing factor in the workings of the mind. William James said that both soft and hard determinists (like Gazzaniga) have an “antipathy to chance.”

“Physical laws govern the physical world. We are part of the physical world. Therefore, there are physical laws that govern our behavior. Determinism reigns. Einstein and Spinoza bought it. Who are we to question it?,” asks Gazzaniga. His answer? All the spectacular advances in science leave him with what he calls “one unshakeable fact. We are personally responsible agents and are to be held accountable for our actions, even though we live in a determined universe.” [His italics].

Gazzaniga knows that quantum physics introduces some irreducible indeterminism at the atomic and molecular level. This means you are free to choose Boston cream pie over berries for dessert, he says, and the choice was not determined at the very instant of the big bang. But he doubts whether quantum events in the brain help to make the choice free. “What on earth do humans want to be free from?,” he asks, “Indeed, what does free will even mean? However actions are caused, we want them to be carried out with accuracy, consistency, and purpose. When we reach for a glass of water, we don’t want our hand suddenly rubbing our eye.“ The short answer is that we do not want our actions to be predetermined, (by genetic factors) from the remote past before we were born, or (by environmental factors) from our life experiences, or (by causal chains) from the physical conditions that exist immediately before we deliberate about our decisions.

And moreover, as Gazzaniga says, we want our actions to be caused (determined) by our purposes and motives, our desires and feelings. Can we have it both ways? Yes, if the causality involved is only statistical, if the determinism is only adequate to explain the regularity of macroscopic physical laws. Quantum physics corresponds perfectly to classical physics in the limit of large numbers of atoms, and in the limit of large quantum numbers. In my two-stage model of free will, a limited indeterminism in the first stage can generate creative new ideas for consideration by an adequately determined second stage making the decision. The model is analogous to biological evolution, where microscopic stochasticity generating mutations in the gene pool is a creative force. This is the first step in a two-step process, as Ernst Mayr described it. The macroscopic second step of natural selection is an adequately determined process.

How does Gazzaniga defend the philosophically difficult proposition that immaterial ideas in an emergent mind can constrain the physical world? Can he solve the great problem of mind-body dualism? In his Gifford lectures, Gazzaniga proposes something analogous to the controversial Baldwin effect in evolutionary theory, the notion that learned behaviors transmitted culturally can so modify the environment that selection pressures now favor random mutations that have more reproductive success in the now changed environment. This creates a feedback loop called genetic assimilation when the new environment gets reflected in the genes, or niche construction when humans adapt the environment (as opposed to animals, who adapt to the environment). Gazzaniga proposes a similar feedback process in the mind-brain, where top-level mental ideas exert “downward causation” on the brain, biasing its decisions that are being made from the bottom (the neurons) up. Terrence Deacon makes similar arguments, the mind puts constraints on the physical world to further its goals. These two thinkers are onto something very important, in my opinion.

Finally, Gazzaniga thinks he has solved the problem of free will by noting that moral responsibility is not something that is created in brains, but in social interactions. He is right, of course. Morality is primarily a social and cultural question, despite many studies finding altruistic behavior in some animals. For decades, compatibilist philosophers have tried to identify free will with moral responsibility. That the two issues are connected historically is undeniable, but I disagree that “social interactions make us free to choose,” as Gazzaniga claims. The question of whether deterministic physical laws pre-determine all our actions is a physical and biological question. We may not have metaphysical free will, but we do have a biophysical free will. As William James insisted, some irreducible ontological chance must be part of the solution.

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