Philosopher Eddy Nahmias from Georgia State University conveys to Scientific American readers in the January issue his ideas and research in support of the idea that free will exists. Our ability to choose left versus right, he thinks, prevails—even when, unbeknownst to all of us, our brains sometimes appear to be grinding away behind the scenes immediately before we actually take a step or utter the first word of a sentence.
Some other philosophers and neuroscientists disagree with Nahmias’s interpretation, however. They point to the same studies that suggest unconscious processes drive our every action—and then conclude free will is nothing more than an illusion.
Whether or not free will actually exists has all sorts of moral and legal consequences:
“My brain made me do it, judge.”
This is an age-old debate that dates back to the ancients. It will likely continue for millennia to come. The debaters need not be confined to the ranks of professional philosophers and neuroscientists.
So we’d like to hear what you think. Is Nahmias right and the impression that many of us have is correct: We have the free will to choose one course of action over another. Or are you in the opposite camp? Do you think our brains decide for us without our being conscious of the machinery by which they carry out subliminal decision-making processes?
Help us out and vote yes or no below. Also, if you wish, leave a comment about why you agree or disagree with the idea that our conscious selves still retain control over what we decide.
The survey will remain on our site until January 10, at which time we will post the results.