David Eagleman - The Brain and the Law

There is almost universal agreement among philosophers, neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and other mind researchers that the mind has a physical basis in the brain. Sure, we don't yet understand the particular mechanism through which the brain produces conscious experience, but most serious researchers into the field no longer buy the antiquated notion of an immaterial soul.

But as philosophers have recognized for thousands of years, if the basis of consciousness is physical, then our minds are the result of physical laws of causality, and that creates all sorts of problems for the notion of free will. Whether we have any free will at all is debatable, but there is no doubt that, at the very least, there is a lot less of it than we normally imagine.

This is an interesting intellectual question, but it's also an important practical question everyone should care about because free will is directly tied to the question of moral responsibility: are people responsible for their actions? Suppose we have no free will; what do we do about the 'justice' system? Should we let criminals go free because they're not really culpable for what they've done? That's exactly the kind of question that David Eagleman tries to explore in the following fascinating presentation



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