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Ethical Brain: Chapter 6 
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Post Ethical Brain: Chapter 6
This thread is for discussing Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It. You can post within this framework or create your own threads. ::30

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 11/1/05 12:30 am



Fri Sep 30, 2005 3:37 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
Fairly solid chapter, at least as a summary of the issue. I do think that Gazzaniga did a better job of representing the intentionalist side of the argument than he did the determinist side, but I'm sympathetic to the intentionalist side, so I'm willing to let it slide. I do hope that someone else on the site will take the determinist side, as I'd like to hear some of their arguments fleshed out.

The weakest spot in the chapter, I thought, was Gazzaniga's own argument: that "brains are automatic, but people are free." (p. 99) That makes for a nice slogan, but I didn't feel that Gazzaniga really explained how that was possible, particularly given the intermediate steps which say that the mind is causally related to the brain, and that choice is an aspect of the brain. Nor am I convinced of the reality of a "responsibility" that arises only in the social context. No, obviously we're not responsible in isolation in the same sense that we're responsible in a community -- the difference to me seems to be that of ethical responsibility and personal responsibility -- but doesn't free will imply responsibility for one's action in the sense of a causal relationship between the act and the intent? What about the social situation "causes" us to be responsible? Are we only capable of being free so long as we're attached to a community?

All of these are questions that I feel Gazzaniga needed to address in order to make sense of the formula that brains are automatic and people are free.




Thu Oct 13, 2005 6:00 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
This chapter discusses the idea of free won't. I had heard of free will, but I had not heard of free won't! On p 93 Gazzaniga tells us that Ramachandran suggests that, "our conscious minds may not have free will but rather 'free won't'"! Essentially this idea of free won't comes from brain research which shows that we act before we become conscious of our decision to act. However, there is a small window during which we can go with the unconscious decision or veto that decision. This small window of time exists while our neurons are traveling from our brain to the part of the body that will act. I am interested in finding out what readers think about this. Do we have free will(or free won't,) or just the illusion of free will(or free won't)?




Sun Oct 23, 2005 4:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
I think it's an interesting way of looking at the idea of free will. In particular, it's a way of allowing for some for of self-determination while simultaneously accounting for the fact that we don't have the sort of unlimited creative ability that is suggested by taking the concept of free will to its extreme.

Incidentally, I've also been reading Freud's "Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis" lately, which raises the further qualification that we may also exhibit instances of veto which are not freely applied -- what Freud calls repression.




Sun Oct 23, 2005 9:39 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
Gazzaniga refers to V.S. Ramachandran in chapters 6&7. I was first introduced to Ramachandran's ideas at BookTalk. We were discussing Pinker's Blank Slate when Peter recommended I listen to a radio lecture by Ramachandran. Here is the link to that discussion- p090.ezboard.com/fbooktalkfrm66.showMessage?topicID=13.topic.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to that broadcast. If you're interest in Ramachandran was piqued consider listening to him here- www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003.




Wed Oct 26, 2005 4:20 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
For more info about Ramachandran's ideas, you can read his book Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, a better book than The Ethical Brain.




Tue Nov 01, 2005 12:06 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
Thanks for the book recommendation, Julian! I have not read any of his books. That book would be a good one for BookTalk to read in the future.




Tue Nov 01, 2005 5:36 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
On p 92 Gazzaniga explains how studies by Libet seem to suggest that our brain decides to do things before we consciously decide to do them. This reminded me of Damasio's discussion of emotions and feelings in Looking for Spinoza. Damasio maintains that emotion(physical exhibition) happens prior to feelings(internal state of being). It seems to me that the ideas presented by these authors are at odds. Does anyone have any ideas on this? Some of you may remember that Looking for Spinoza was a former BookTalk book selection. I found the book interesting. Feel free to comment here whether or not you have read the Damasio book though!




Sun Nov 06, 2005 3:51 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
Tarav, I have read many studies that show that activities that have nothing to do with a specific emotion can in fact trigger that emotion, such as cutting onions can actually trigger a feeling of sadness. Forcing smiles can actually make the smiler feel cheerful. Forcing a frown can make the frowner feel low, or disgruntled.

These activities actually make chemical changes in the brain. Hence the effectiveness of making a depressed friend or family member go out, do something, even take a walk. A depressed person who cannot make himself get out of bed, if forced to get up, get dressed and go out of doors, will actually experience a chemical change in the brain. Enough of those activities can trigger an improvement.

Marti in Mexico




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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
And how about the phenomenon of remembering that we forgot. There are instances when we can remember back to a specific point and remember at what exact point we forgot something.

So we can look back (remember) and remember the exact point at which we forgot something...so why didn't we remember the forgotten thing at that time? At that point we are oblivious to the forgetting, but can remember the forgetting later.

Marti in Mexico




Sun Nov 06, 2005 10:25 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - My Brain Made Me Do It
tarav: On p 92 Gazzaniga explains how studies by Libet seem to suggest that our brain decides to do things before we consciously decide to do them.

Hmm. I don't have the book before me, but as I recall, the experiment which suggested this functioned in part by having subjects indicate the moment when a conscious decision was made while simultaneously measuring activity in the correlated parts of the brain. Personally, I'm not sure how such a test would conclusively suggest that our brains make decisions before we become consciously aware of them. Gazzaniga and company may have good reasons for drawing that conclusion, but I don't see them here.

A few questions arise. One is, how are we sure that the subject's indications are trustworthy? I'm not debating the conscious trustworthiness of the subjects involved, but rather their ability to accurately indicate when they have made a conscious decision. I'm reminded of the old Disney cartoon in which a "slow-motion" shot of Goofy deciding to apply the brakes in his car demonstrated the problems of reaction time and the nervous system (it was also funny, by the way). Another question is how the neurologists are certain that the measured activity is actually the termination of the decision, rather than some other sort of mental activity involved in the decision-making process.

marti1900: Tarav, I have read many studies that show that activities that have nothing to do with a specific emotion can in fact trigger that emotion, such as cutting onions can actually trigger a feeling of sadness.

Not to undercut the neuro-chemical explanation of the phenomenon, but isn't it also possible to credit the reflexivity of human thought? Our emotions are, in part, fed by our awareness of our emotional responses. Take for example the case of a person in a situation causing them sadness. They tell themselves that they won't surrender to the emotion -- they won't cry. They hold out for however long, but the moment a single tear rolls down their cheek, the torrent bursts forth. The awareness of the response intensifies the reaction -- in part, it intensifies the emotion, and precisely because we're made undeniably aware of the emotion. Knowing -- admitting -- that we are sad or angry can provoke us to be fully so. It seems equally likely that knowing that we are having the same response that we would in certain emotional situations can provoke the emotion itself. To give another example, might not the tears caused by cutting an onion remind a person of the last time the cried out of genuine sadness?




Mon Nov 07, 2005 12:06 am
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