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The Format of Thought: a Dynamical Systems Approach to Intentional Action. Susan Schneider Department of Philosophy, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and Institute for Cognitive Science University of Pennsylvania. Aim. DST purports to be a theory of the nature of thought.
Department of Philosophy, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and Institute for Cognitive Science
University of Pennsylvania
Idea behind problem: Whenever a mental event is proposed as a cause of another event, whether physical or mental, its status as cause is in danger of being preempted by a physical event—that is, a mental cause is liable to be excluded by a physical cause.
Causal Closure of Physical (i.e., microphysical) Domain. General idea, quoting Kim:, “the physical domain is causally and explanatorily self-sufficient—that is, to explain a physical event, or to identify its cause, there is no need to look outside the physical domain.”
Ex) The biological domain is not causally self-sufficient since nonbiological events (e.g., purely physical events such as exposure to strong radiation, natural disasters) can cause biological changes.
Physical Causal Closure (Kim). If a physical event has a sufficient cause occurring at t, then it has a physical sufficient cause occurring at t.Kim’s Exclusion Problem
(1) Drop causal closure principle.
(2) Drop notion of circular causation, accepting linear causation instead. Saying that higher-level states are realized by complexes of physical states, and the physical states really do the casual work. (Important: consistent with explanatory import of higher-order vocabulary).
We recognize a conflict between two perspectives we have on ourselves. We see ourselves as free agents; yet we also see our behavior as being determined by underlying causes that we at least sometimes are not fully aware of.
Problem of Free Will: Are my intentional actions genuinely free, or are they determined by laws of nature, together with antecedent states of my brain?The Problem of Free Will
Visualization of wave function of hydrogen atomQuantum Mechanics
(a), it is “up to us” what we choose from a field of possibilities
(b), the origin of our choices and actions is in us and not in anyone/anything else over which we have no control.
1. Emergent phenomena in general can exhibit downward causation, but, intuitively, only minds exhibit free will.
So, exhibiting downward causation is a necessary condition for a system acting on the basis of free will, but it is not a sufficient condition.
2. Content of beliefs, desires, etc. are both reasons for the action and causes of the action – Davidson, Fodor.
What are the correlates of concepts according to DST?
Need these for a DST theory of FW as Compatibilism is supposed to accommodate our ordinary framework of attribution of blame, praise, etc.
Libet. Freely voluntary acts are preceded by a specific electrical change in the brain (the “readiness potential”, RP) that begins 550 msec. before the act. (This is almost the same amount of time it takes to utter two syllables).
Now, humans only become aware of the intention to act 350-400 msec. after RP starts, but still before the motor act.3. Recent Revolution in Free Will Debate: the work of Benjamin Libet
Ex) Tennis match with Venus Williams.
- Did you consciously intend to return her serve before action initiation? No way.
- As you learned to play tennis, you consciously intended to master actions that, due to all your practice, you now initiate involuntarily and non-consciously. So, in a sense, the actions are initiated freely. To go back to our def. of FW, “the origin of the choice is in you.” It is not as though, contra your purpose in the game, you mysteriously initiated a “return the serve” move when you were at the net. Your returning the serve is very much a part of you.
- Although the paradigm cases of free will are conscious ones (ones in the global workspace before initiation of motor action); non-consciously initiated actions can be acts of free will (in a derivative sense) as we freely chose to develop these skills.
- They just aren’t the paradigm cases.
- Conclusion: Libet’s results are not contrary to Neurocompatibilism.