Free Will and Morality

There are various issues addressed in the paper. Such issues include whether randomness helps in cases of “liberty indifference” only, whether real randomness gets a person the same things as pseudo-randomness, whether it is possible to tell real randomness from pseudo randomness, whether randomness is compatible with being in control and whether there is such a condition as determined but free. The most fundamental question, which gives rise to the previous ones, is whether there is such a condition as free will and whether it can be disapproved scientifically. From the neuroscience studies, there are possibilities of changing the law, if people’s moral intuitions regarding responsibility and freedom could be transformed. The questions revolve around free will, and it is said to be an illusion of an individual’s cognitive structure. These structures are the retributive ones and the consequentialist ones (Bound, 2009).

The retributive cognitive structures are backward-looking and therefore, focus on the possibility of an alternative. They push for punishment, stating that the culprit could have chosen to act differently. The consequentialist structures, on the other hand, are forward-looking. They aim to prove that an act could not be prevented from happening, and a culprit or individual had no alternatives. The questions are an attempt to obtain an explanation of the mental operations and the physical causes of people’s behavior. The information obtained has a potentially broad impact on the law, due to the transformation of people’s intuitions regarding responsibility and free will (Dennett, 2003).

Cognitive neuroscience is expected to bring about new ways of looking at arguments and therefore, change the moral outlook. These questions lead to studies that help to explain why people make decisions that make no sense at all, in spite of making conclusive arguments in support of the choice made. One of the experiments conducted involved a person looking at pictures, with his head inside an MRI machine, in order for his brain to be examined as he made his pick of “cool” items from the pictures. All that was required of the person was to look at the pictures, as they were placed in front of him. The experiment was done for thirty minutes, and the items were ranked according to the brain’s response on a scale of coolness, from very uncool to very cool (PBS, 2009).

The results of this test seemed to be dependent on the nature of the person taking the test. There was a group of people whose front of the brain got active when they saw pictures of items they did not like, but their brains remained inactive when they saw things that they liked. These people were said to be highly negative responders, with high consciousness of what is cool. The brain was therefore focused on staying away from what was uncool. The second group of people tested the opposite, with their brains ignoring the uncool, and their brains going wild with the cool items. Such people were said to be impulsive by nature, shopaholics, or keen on trends (PBS, 2009).

The second test was a check of the response that people had on women in the workplace. The implicit association test was about pairing words at the center of a screen with words on either side at the top of the screen. ‘E’ key for the left and ‘I’ key for the right. What was critical to the test was the time taken to select an answer, and it was, therefore, necessary to carry out the test fast. From the tests, it was found that people had a stronger liking or bias to something or someone that they related to first (PBS, 2009).

The third test was a study of how emotion and rationality compete in decision-making. It involved one player being studied on brain activity while other players made him choose the ratio that they would share some money. His options were to either accept or reject the offer. Rejection meant the loss of money for both players, even if the amount given was irrational. Brain activity indicated anger, when the offer is given, was ridiculously low and rejected. When a low ratio was provided by the computer, people were more inclined to take it after careful thinking, but the same offer given by a human was rejected and showed anger (PBS, 2009)

According to science, the occurrence of one thing leads to another. The fourth experiment was aimed at identifying who was in charge of the decisions that one made; whether it was the conscious man or the unconscious self that could not be controlled. In the experiment, the man was made to make decisions while inside an MRI machine. It was a test of speed in identifying a choice. The scanner recorded the time when the brain made the decision while the computer recorded when the button was physically pressed in selection. The results showed that a choice of the decision could be predicted, six seconds before selection. This implies that the brain made the decision six seconds before the conscious was aware of it. From this experiment, we found out that brain activity creates the subconscious, which communicates to the conscious mind. This implies that a spontaneous action has a cause, brain activity, though it is unknown by the conscious (Bound, 2003).

The results show that free will makes us respond or not respond. The results answer the questions though leave the end decision to oneself based on their standing, whether retributions or consequentialist. What is clear is that people live in absurdity for a certain degree, and admission of such a condition is absurd itself. Free will is seen not only as an emotional necessity but also a scientific prospect, therefore creating room for spontaneity. This creates a dilemma in viewing praise, punishment, and personal responsibility. It raises questions on why one would be blamed or praised for doing something that occurred due to free will, or otherwise put us without a cause.

Some things regarding the deterministic world are confusing. Deterministic things only increase probabilities but do not indicate inevitable conditions (Bound, 2009).

In a deterministic universe, whatever happens, is determined and inevitable. This means that there are no opportunities or choices. The decision of a person, when left to the conscious, indicates that the emotions provide the initial opinion before reasoning kicks in. Alternative tests to confirm this theory can be conducted by giving people two sets of options that require judgment and are emotionally driven. While people seem to argue within themselves on the best alternative, brain activity predetermines a solution that is later translated to the conscious once we accept it as implementable. Time taken to communicate an option to the conscious has also been linked to the age of a person, implying that a child may take longer to make a choice, though the brain already knows the next cause of action (Dennett, 2003).

Experiments in support of this can be done by studying the brain activity of children, by asking them to make a choice between two or more items or decisions. It is expected that a child will take more time reasoning, but if the science is true, the decision will have been made by the brain activity, before the conscious decides to communicate it. Such questions can include situations that pose a dilemma, like: given the option of killing one drunken person and one priest, who would you pick? Or if a street child got pregnant and went into labor and the situation got difficult such that the girl could die if she proceeded, would you advise her to terminate the baby or kill the baby and risk not getting any more children? Such questions make people believe that they are thinking, but are they really, or is the outcome already known?

Arguments show that determination does not tell of a cause or the lack of a cause. People do not have free will due to a condition referred to as readiness potential, where the mind is said to arrive at a decision before the body gets into motion to execute it. This makes consciousness seem powerless since all decisions come from the subconscious and are communicated to the conscious for implementation.

The paper forms a good basis for the analysis of one’s actions, based on free will and judgment. It helps us understand that there is not much difference between the two, only that one is conscious, and the other is impulsive; nevertheless, any action taken is predetermined by brain activity (Dennett, 2003).

Some things appear to be thought of thoroughly, but science tells us that it is a matter of free will. Irrespective of knowing this, people like to know that their actions are rational. On the other hand, it is interesting to know why our brains were more inclined to make a certain decision. The paper also helps us to identify the link between rational thinking and emotionally driven decisions. It most certainly gives us a different view of criminal cases, our daily decisions, and how our freedom is greater as compared to other creatures, which builds our morality.

Reference List

Bound, L. (Director). (2009). Neuroscience and Free W. United States

Dennett, D. C. (2003). A Hearing for Liberterianism. In D. C. Dennett, Freedom Evolves (pp. 97-139). New York: Penguin Putnam.

Frontiers, S. A. (Director). (2009). Hidden motives. United States