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The Editors | 09.12.08

Science/Tech

Tom Wolfe and a cognitive neuroscientist discuss status, free will, and the human condition

Seed Magazine [Read the Article]

"Wolfe: 'Speech has introduced so many variables... because of your experiences and because of the reactions of speech constantly feeding you new material, your brain is going to operate differently from anybody else's, and that is the free will — whether you call it mechanical or not. Everybody becomes such an individual, it becomes pointless to say, 'You didn't make that decision.' It's an absurd idea.'"

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TOPICS:    brain | free will | neuroscience
(2) COMMENTS

By cartesian coordinates AT 09.12.08 04:39PM

cartesian coordinates

Fascinating piece. Like a good journalist, Wolfe largely only hints at his own opinions. He plays with ideas. As he said himself, he doesn’t have an agenda. (And his novels “have no themes.”)

Interesting idea for a “linguistic” free will.


By Fr. Larry Gearhart AT 09.15.08 03:10PM

Fr. Larry Gearhart

Both Wolfe and Gazzaniga are materialists.  As such, they acknowledge to each other that the classical notion of free will, in the context of which it makes sense to discuss moral praise or blame, does not make sense.  It’s hard for non-technical people to appreciate this developing consensus among materialists.  They’re always looking for technical explanations of free will.  Since all of our experience of science and technology, and their explanations, is based upon observable, controllable and repeatable phenomena, we can’t begin to touch things like God and free will with our “explanations.”  If both the materialists and the non-materialists could understand this problem better, it might help us to appreciate our differences more fully, and we might begin to understand just how much of our civilization is predicated upon non-materialist assumptions, and how “Brave New World” our civilization would become if those assumptions were overthrown by consensus.


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