Big brain evolution: direct brain stimulation studies (Evolution)

by David Turell @, Sunday, October 14, 2018, 06:08 (2 days ago) @ David Turell

What they tell us about free will:

https://mindmatters.today/2018/10/does-brain-stimulation-research-challenge-free-will/

"If an electrode is applied to a specific brain region during “awake” neurosurgery, the patient may experience a strong desire to perform a related action and may even be mistaken about whether he has done so.

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"Stimulating the right inferior parietal regions triggered a strong intention and desire to move the contralateral hand, arm, or foot, whereas stimulating the left inferior parietal region provoked the intention to move the lips and to talk. When stimulation intensity was increased in parietal areas, participants believed they had really performed these movements, although no electromyographic activity was detected. Stimulation of the premotor region triggered overt mouth and contralateral limb movements. Yet, patients firmly denied that they had moved. Conscious intention and motor awareness thus arise from increased parietal activity before movement execution.

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"Wilder Penfield, ... found that while he could stimulate several different types of responses—sensations, movements of limbs, memories, etc.—he could not stimulate a sense of agency. Patients still knew whether a movement was done by them or to them. A sense of will—free will—was beyond evocation by brain stimulation. Penfield, who began his career as a materialist, finished it as a passionate dualist.

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"The classical understanding of the soul derived from Plato and Aristotle—which is, I think, correct—is that the immaterial aspect of the human soul consists of the intellect and the will. The intellect thinks abstract thoughts about universal things (mathematics, morality, etc.) and the will follows on the immaterial intellect. The will is naturally free in the sense that it is not determined by matter.

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"The immaterial aspects of the soul, as noted, are the intellect and the will. The intellect and the will are wholly immaterial aspects of the soul because they deal with immaterial objects (abstractions, logic, etc.) The intellect considers things as universals—concepts, abstractions, complex judgments, etc. The will carries out acts in accordance with the good as the intellect defines it.

"The will and the passions interact with and modulate each other. The will constrains the passions. We may feel anger and be ready to strike out but our will (directed by our intellect) can prevent us from acting in a way that the intellect deems unwise. Sometimes our passions can override our will. A man may fall in love with a woman he knows is chronically unfaithful, despite his best judgment.

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"Alteration of brain function can radically change passions (as any alcoholic knows). But the will, which is free and immaterial, remains, even if it is overwhelmed by the material passions. Sometimes, of course, the passions win and sometimes the will wins. But the will is spiritual and is free, and the passions are material and are not freely chosen.

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"Penfield’s studies found that no stimulation of any sort could erase the patient’s awareness that the feeling or act was externally caused, even if the patient experienced the feeling in a very personal way. “You caused me to think/do that” was the invariable explanation they gave him during the surgery. It was in that sense that Penfield says that he could not evoke agency.

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"In the debate about free will, we must understand that will is not, by itself, the same thing as agency (the ability to act). The will and passions work simultaneously, whether for our good or not, but the will and the passions are very different aspects of the mind. The will is spiritual and free. The passions are material and not free. They are caused by material processes in the brain and can be evoked surgically. They can, of course also can be evoked in many other ways, some of which are material substances (e.g. drugs, alcohol).

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"will follows on the immaterial intellect as the means ... by which we apply reason to our actions. In this sense, will is not determined by the material passions. It influences them and is in turn influenced by them. But because will is not determined by matter, it remains free."

Comment: Again this is Dr. Egnor, the neurosurgeon, explaining the role of the brain in free will. He views free will as immaterial and controlling over the materially induced passions we feel, which are a result of physico-chemical changes/forces in the brain. The excerpts here do not give justice to the while article. More support for dualism.


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