A Discussion on Free Will, Subjectivity and the Physics of the Nervous System
A discussion on the existence of free will goes back at least to the Middle Ages. The problem is related to reductionism, i.e. the claim that subjectivity could be considered an epiphenomenon of the cerebral processes, the argument being that all our sensorial perceptions, the control of movement, our states of wakefulness or of unconsciousness can be related to the activation or to the block of specific areas of our cerebral cortex. In the frame of this conception free will is denied essentially on the basis of physical determinism. In contrast to such attitude, we argue that experiences like consciousness of ourselves, of a personal identity or even simply of qualia completely escape from Physical-nature principles. The physics and introspection point of view tend to be both important but complementary and irreducible to each other; any attempt to do so results in unresolvable aporias. We remember, specifically on free will, that our nervous system is a complex mesoscopic system. Relation to Quantum Theory is important for an understanding of its occurrences. Physics gives no justification for one response instead of another, although our response is deliberate. The conceptual space for reconciling physics with introspection seems to be created by Quantum Mechanics. It also recalls some fundamental principles on the structure and functioning of neurons and central nervous systems, addresses Liebet’s experiments on delayed consciousness and the role of free will in the process of information. Physical existence definitions. Physics and introspection seem both necessary yet complementary and irreducible from one point of view to the other; any effort to do so results in unresolvable aporias. In particular, we note on free will that our nervous system is a complex mesoscopic system. Reference to Quantum Theory is important for an understanding of its occurrences. Physics offers no explanation for one answer instead of another, although our reaction is deliberate. Quantum Mechanics appears to provide the conceptual space for physics to be reconciled with introspection. It also recalls some basic principles on the structure and functioning of neurons and central nervous systems, addresses Liebet’s experiments on delayed consciousness and the role of free will in the process of information.
Author (s) Details
Brain and Behavioral Sciences Department, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.
Giovanni Maria Prosperi
Physics Department, University of Milano, INFN Sezione di Milano, Milano, Italy.
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