By: Sam Harris, read in 2016
4. "if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently" This is an important but unfounded assumption. If there is some "extra part" other than atoms then it might provide a basis for explaining and understanding not only free will but also the experience of consciousness.
4. "There is simply no intellectually respectable position from which to deny this." I suggest we take seriously Searle's and Penrose's claim that there is "something more" than atoms involved in consciousness. That would make the notion "intellectually respectable".
5. "How can we make sense of our lives, and hold people accountable for their choices, given the unconscious origins of our conscious minds?" That is hardly a "given". We do not understand consciousness, much less its origin.
5. "Free will is an illusion." Illusion is a form of deception. In order to have deception, someone or something must be deceived. Exactly who is deceived by this "illusion"?
5. "Our wills are simply not of our own making." In order to make this claim clear you must identify who or what the two "our"s refer to. Are either of them the body? Or the body plus something more? (By "something more" I mean the component suspected by Searle, Penrose and Plato.) Or could either of them be something completely outside of them too?
5. "Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control." It is obviously true that our thoughts that ultimately lead to action spread back over enough time so that we are usually unaware of their development and their origin. But that does not mean that we didn't exercise free will in choosing to focus and dwell on key ideas that were instrumental in the causative chain of thoughts. I maintain that we do indeed have no free will to action but that we do have free will to choose at least some of our thoughts. And these thoughts make us who we are and determine what we do.
5. "We do not have the freedom we think we have." You are claiming to speak for a lot of people with your all-inclusive "we". When you notice that your mind has begun to wander during meditation, do you have the freedom to choose to refocus your attention to the mantra?
5. "Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent." Let me try: It could be, i.e. it is conceptually coherent that, consciousness exists in a hierarchy of "Natural Individuals" (Gregg Rosenberg) with humans somewhere near the bottom of the hierarchy. Departing slightly from Rosenberg it could be that each NI is actually an unconscious vehicle (think car or Mars rover) operated and controlled by the NI directly above in the hierarchy. It could be that in reality all consciousness is lodged in the highest NI and it is that one that (who) is the sole experiencer and the one who is deceived into thinking that it is at times a conscious human. (Think of Freeman Dyson's "Cosmic Unity" which logically entails perfect justice in that all perpetrators, victims, benefactors, and beneficiaries are identically one and the same individual.) There are several variations on exactly how many levels there are in the NI hierarchy, how various components of consciousness might be distributed throughout the hierarchy, and how they might be attenuated, but these variations could all be "conceptually coherent".
5. "Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them." This is a false dichotomy based on an incomplete or absent notion of the identity of the "our" and "we".
6. "Seeming acts of volition merely arise spontaneously (whether caused, uncaused, or probabilistically inclined, it makes no difference) and cannot be traced to a point of origin in our conscious minds." I suggest that you are stymied in your search because you are looking in the wrong place. Your mistake is in assuming that the mind is wholly contained in the brain. If it is not, then the "point of origin" might be located in that external component of the (I hesitate to say "our") conscious mind.
6. "A moment or two of serious self-scrutiny, and you might observe that you no more decide the next thought you think than the next thought I write." I took your suggestion and observed no such thing. I am in considerable control of my thoughts just as you must think you are while you meditate.
7. "We are conscious of only a tiny fraction of the information that our brains process in each moment." A JPL scientist is conscious of only a tiny fraction of the information processed on board a Mars rover.
8. "Benjamin Libet famously used EEG to show that activity in the brain’s motor cortex can be detected some 300 milliseconds before a person feels that he has decided to move." You really mean 300 ms before the time as reported having been seen by the person when they think they have made the decision to act. The delays inherent in the communication between brain and consciousness need to be taken into account. Analogous to the communication delays between JPL and a rover.
8. "Another lab extended this work using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI):" Let's suppose Cartesian Dualism is true and that the brain/mind relationship is analogous to the Mars rover/JPL scientist relationship. How would the analogous fMRI experiment look? Let's follow it step by step:
8. "Subjects were asked to press one of two buttons while watching a “clock” composed of a random sequence of letters appearing on a screen." The on-board computers were programmed to run two programs, A and B. Program A generates a time-stamped (rover time) random sequence of letters, presents them as inputs available to B, and accumulates a log of its output which is sent to JPL. Program B makes the "decisions" as to which button to push (by generating a random 0 or 1), "push the button" and "observe the clock". Program B waits for a signal to start from JPL, then after a random interval of time sends a message to JPL. The message contains the current time on the rover and the current output letter from program A along with its time stamp and the 0 or 1 " choice" that it made.
8. "They reported which letter was visible at the moment they decided to press one button or the other." The experiment is begun by JPL sending a time-stamped (JPL time) command to the rover to run programs A and B. ...(This needs to be worked out.)
9. "These findings are difficult to reconcile with the sense that we are the conscious authors of our actions." It is difficult only if you deny dualism.
9. "brain has already determined what you will do. You then become conscious of this “decision” and believe that you are in the process of making it." Speak for yourself. That is not true for me. I am aware that I do not consciously decide on my actions. I am also aware that I can willfully decide to choose some of my thoughts. I do that by deliberately, consciously, and willfully directing my attention toward certain thoughts and away from others, just as you instruct your students to redirect their wandering attention while meditating. By making a series of such choices, certain courses of action become consciously preferred over others. After a relatively long time those preferences build up in the unconscious brain (the entire brain is unconscious, as we dualists would agree) forming the precursor conditions for deliberate action that you and Libet have identified.
9. "The distinction between “higher” and “lower” systems in the brain offers no relief:" True. You have to acknowledge that the "higher system" is outside the brain.
9. "I, as the conscious witness of my experience, no more initiate events in my prefrontal cortex than I cause my heart to beat." You are conflating the "higher" and "lower" systems. In your sentence, "I" and the first "my" refer to the higher system while the last two "my"s refer to the lower system.
9. "cannot decide what I will next think or intend until a thought or intention arises." True. But as I explained above, those pre-cursor thoughts are part of thought patterns deliberately and consciously chosen by you in many cases.
10. "Imagine a perfect neuroimaging device that would allow us to detect and interpret the subtlest changes in brain function." Imagine a perfect diagnostic device capable of monitoring and reporting on the subtlest movements of electrons in a Mars rover's on-board computers. A complete report would reveal absolutely nothing of the JPL scientists, not even a hint of their existence.
10. "the scientists scanning your brain had been able to produce a complete record of what you would think and do some moments in advance of each event." I don't agree that this is possible, even in principle. Think of the rover analogy.
11. "the fact that someone else could report what you were about to think and do would expose this feeling for what it is: an illusion." Not so fast. It cannot be an illusion without some conscious entity being deceived. And exactly "who" is that?
11. "If the laws of nature do not strike most of us as incompatible with free will, that is because we have not imagined how human behavior would appear if all cause-and-effect relationships were understood." Speak for yourself. I, for one, have imagined how such a world would appear. It would appear just as we observe ours to be. For example the laws of physics can predict the behavior of all cars that are not being driven. Cars that are being driven do not violate the laws of phsics, but their movements are highly improbable, keeping them on the road and causing them to arrive at consciously chosen destinations. These movements are not predictable by the laws of physics.
11. "It is important to recognize that the case I am building against free will does not depend upon philosophical materialism (the assumption that reality is, at bottom, purely physical)." Oh, but it does--big time.
12. "But even if the human mind were made of soul-stuff, nothing about my argument would change." Yes it would. You would have to answer all the objections I raised above.
12. "The unconscious operations of a soul would grant you no more freedom than the unconscious physiology of your brain does." True. But what if, as we dualists claim, the "soul" is conscious and possesses free will? In that case the body would behave as if it were sometimes being directed by a conscious and willful driver, just as it does appear to us.
12. "If you don’t know what your soul is going to do next, you are not in control." Again you have conflated your two "you"s. The first one IS the soul and in many cases does know what it is going to do next. The second one is the unconscious body which, in spite of possessing a lot of data, actually knows nothing.
12. "A voluntary action is accompanied by the felt intention to carry it out, whereas an involuntary action isn’t." OK. But the existence of free will does not entail that the "felt intention" necessarily arises at the moment of action, or even within some seconds prior. Instead the choice of action depends on a complex cascade of neural and other physical events that were set up long before, even many years before, the action occurs. But free will was exercised and expressed in the setting up of those conditions by consciously and freely choosing to attend to thoughts of desired future states of the world.
12. "what a person consciously intends to do says a lot about him." Indeed it does. It indicated what sort of future states this person desires. Of the possible future states, the individual has freely chosen to focus attention on some and not others. This results in the setting up of the conditions leading to actions which you have interpreted to be inevitable. The choices of future states says a lot about the character of the individual and they confer responsibility on him/her.
13. "But where intentions themselves come from, and what determines their character in every instance, remains perfectly mysterious in subjective terms." It's not so mysterious if you accept dualism.
13. "Our sense of free will results from a failure to appreciate this: We do not know what we intend to do until the intention itself arises." That is no doubt true for most casual thinkers. But your failure to recognize the dual nature of consciousness prevents you from understanding that free will is exercised outside the brain and long in advance of the intentional action.
13. "But the idea that we, as conscious beings, are deeply responsible for the character of our mental lives and subsequent behavior is simply impossible to map onto reality." True only if your concept of reality is limited to the familiar material world. It makes me wonder though, Sam. Didn't you say somewhere that as a result of the influence of drugs and/or meditation you have come to believe that there is an extra-material component to reality? It is only a short hop to realize that consciousness might be seated in that component.
13. "Consider what it would take to actually have free will. You would need to be aware of all the factors that determine your thoughts and actions, and you would need to have complete control over those factors." That is too strong. You needn't be aware of all of the determinant factors, but only a sufficient set to allow you to choose your desired future state from a set of possible states. You also needn't have complete control over those factors. You only need the ability to focus your attention on the desired possibility long enough and frequentlly enough so that the precursor conditions for taking action get established and strengthened.
14. "But there is a paradox here that vitiates the very notion of freedom—for what would influence the influences? More influences?" That does not constitute a paradox but instead suggests evidence for a hierarchy of "influencers". And, as in all hierarchies, it is a logical error (IMHO), to infer that the hierarchy entails an "infinite tegression". Instead, as in all hierarchies, there will be a single top member. That in turn should suggest the existence of a single highest-level influencer, or conscious, willful, agent. Incidentally, that was the conclusion reached by Irwin Schroedinger, (page 129, "What is Life?"), who was no slouch as a thinker.
14. "None of these adventitious mental states are the real you. You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm." Your claim cries out for a definition of "the real you". I suggest, in order to arrive at a logically consistent definition, that we combine the notions of Schroedinger and Gregg Rosenberg and consider all conscious beings, with one exception, to be unconscious vehicles that are deliberately controlled, or operated, by a seemingly conscious "driver" occupying the position in a hierarchy of such "Natural Individuals" (NI--Rosenberg's term) directly above, one level up in the hierarchy. The one exception would be the single highest NI. I hesitate to open a can of worms by suggesting a name for that top NI, but if you like I suppose you could call it "the real you". Other names come to mind that I won't mention. You do control the hierarchy, and the rest of reality, to a great extent, but you do seem lost in it. In any case you are the hierarchy, along with the rest of reality.
15. "It is safe to say that no one was ever moved to entertain the existence of free will because it holds great promise as an abstract idea." It is not as safe as you might think, Sam. I, for one, think that the idea of free will holds great promise for explaining one of the greatest mysteries considered by thinkers since the dawn of human intellect at least. That mystery is the meaning or purpose of life. If an entity possessing free will exists, then it is logical to infer that the exercise of that free will could be responsible for reality to exist and unfold in the way that it does. I hasten to note that such inference does not imply perfection, completeness, immutability, omnipotence, omniscience, eternity, or infinity on the part of that willful entity.
15. "(however difficult it may be to make sense of this in logical or scientific terms)." I believe that the difficulty arises because it is fashionable for scientists to deny the possibility of Cartesian Dualism.
15. "In the philosophical literature, one finds three main approaches to the problem:" I do not consider the literature to be complete; it has rejected dualism to its detriment. I think all three on your list are wrong.
16. "human agency must magically rise above the plane of physical causation. Libertarians sometimes invoke a metaphysical entity, such as a soul, as the vehicle for our freely acting wills." Historically, many phenomena were considered to be the result of magic before they were better understood. I think we are in that same state now with respect to consciousness and free will.
16. "we know that determinism, in every sense relevant to human behavior, is true." Not quite. The very relevant sense of the experience of perceiving and recognizing qualia and of feeling the ability to exercise free will are not accounted for by determinism.
16. "Unconscious neural events determine our thoughts and actions—and are themselves determined by prior causes of which we are subjectively unaware." The fact that we are unaware of the "prior causes" suggests that we also do not understand them. Perhaps we could if we expanded the scope of our inquiry to include Dualism.
17. "And the moment we see that such causes are fully effective—as any detailed account of the neurophysiology of human thought and behavior would reveal—we can no longer locate a plausible hook upon which to hang our conventional notions of personal responsibility." This is the baby you have thrown out with the Dualistic bathwater.
17. "the universe, including their brains, in precisely the same state it was in at the moment they committed their crimes." I suspect that your notion of 'universe" is limited to the observable and tangible material world. In Everett's or Tegmark's notions of "many worlds" or in Descartes' dualistic world, the murderer could have done otherwise.
19. "Where is the freedom when one of these opposing desires inexplicably triumphs over its rival?" It is back in time when the concepts involved in the choices were first recognized. Will was exercised in favoring the direction of attention to certain competing concepts. This set of deliberate choices then cascades into the attitudes and mind-set to which you rightly attribute the putative willful actions much later on. The short answer to your question is, far in advance of the action.
19. "Where is the freedom in being perfectly satisfied with your thoughts, intentions, and subsequent actions when they are the product of prior events that you had absolutely no hand in creating?" As I see it, the premise of your question is exactly backward. In general you are seldom perfectly satisfied with your thoughts, intentions, and actions but instead usually feel conflicted. Those proclivities were established by prior thought patterns over which you had absolute willful control.
21. "as Dennett often points out, these processes are as much our own, just as much part of who we are as persons, just as much us, as our conscious awareness." (Tom Clark quoted by Harris) Not if consciousness is seated outside the brain. In that case your brain processes are only a proper subset of your conscious self.
21. "So it isn’t an illusion, as Harris says, that we are authors of our thoughts and actions; we are not mere witnesses to what causation cooks up." (Tom Clark quoted by Harris) Harris is half right; we are the authors of some of our thoughts--the deliberately chosen strategic and causal ones--but not of our tactical ones, nor of our actions.
21. "We as physically instantiated persons really do deliberate and choose and act, even if consciousness isn’t ultimately in charge. So the feeling of authorship and control is veridical." (Tom Clark quoted by Harris) But consciousness is ultimately in charge. So it is more than just feeling; authorship and control are real. There still remains an illusion, however: the conscious self is deceived into believing that free will is exercised at the level of action which it is not.
22. "the neural processes that (some-how—the hard problem of consciousness) support consciousness are essential to choosing, since the evidence strongly suggests they are associated with flexible action and information integration in service to behavior control. But it’s doubtful that consciousness (phenomenal experience) per se adds anything to those neural processes in controlling action." (Tom Clark quoted by Harris) Clark is making an important distinction here that I don't think he recognizes: phenomenal experience begins with perception processes occurring in the brain (supported by sensory processes) but the conscious experience itself takes place outside the brain--in the same place the hard problem is solved and free will is exercised.
22. "It’s true that human persons don’t have contra-causal free will. We are not self-caused little gods. But we are just as real as the genetic and environmental processes which created us and the situations in which we make choices." (Tom Clark quoted by Harris). I agree with this in the limited context of "human persons" being considered to be nothing more than material bodies with brains, but I believe we are more than that.
26. "People feel that they are the authors of their thoughts and actions, and this is the only reason why there seems to be a problem of free will worth talking about." I think it is a mistake to diminish the importance of that reason. In ranking the importance of feelings among all other phenomena, I think it should be ranked near the top, based on at least some criteria, for example its veracity. As Descartes pointed out, no phenomenon is more trustworthy nor more immediately accessible. And, as you point out, the problem of free will figures prominently in our social institutions. So instead if ignoring these facts, as Dennett does, or diminishing them, as you seem to do, we should seek a reasonable explanation for them. And to me, the most reasonable explanation is that free will along with all other conscious experience resides outside the brain and figures into reality as a whole in a grander role than mere human bodies do. This is similar to the respective roles played in human societies by the individual humans and the (mere) cars they drive, even though a view of earth from, say, 1,000 feet would reveal a more important role for the cars than for the people. I think this possibility is very much worth talking about.
27. "the biologist Martin Heisenberg has observed that certain processes in the brain, such as the opening and closing of ion channels and the release of"
28. "synaptic vesicles, occur at random, and cannot therefore be determined by environmental stimuli. Thus, much of our behavior can be considered truly “self-generated”—and therein, he imagines, lies a basis for human freedom. But how do events of this kind justify the feeling of free will? “Self-generated” in this sense means only that certain events originate in the brain." The assumption is valid only if you assume no non-material component is involved in consciousness. For us Dualists that assumption is false.
28. "If my decision to have a second cup of coffee this morning was due to a random release of neurotransmitters, how could the indeterminacy of the initiating event count as the free exercise of my will?" Here's how: The release of the transmitters was not truly random but instead was the result of an unknown cause. If so, then the indeterminacy is simply due to ignorance and the true cause may be a willful choice made by exercising free will in a component of consciousness residing somewhere outside your brain. I think this possibility should be seen as a reason to reinstate the acceptance of Interactionist Dualism.
28. "if certain of my behaviors are truly the result of chance, they should be surprising even to me." The fact that many of them are not surprising should be seen as evidence that they may not be due to chance.
29. "The indeterminacy specific to quantum mechanics offers no foothold:" I disagree. I think it does.
29. "Quantum effects are unlikely to be biologically salient in any case." To the contrary, I believe quantum effects, in particular the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, can solve the mind/body problem. Part of the conundrum is the problem of explaining how an immaterial agent can cause material effects without violating the laws of physics. Here's how: the agent could act via causes (think of messages or influences) that are small enough or subtle enough so that they occur under the HUP threshold. The effect could cause quantum decoherence in part of a physical system, which would then cascade into larger, measurable effects, while to the experimental physicist the original causal effect would appear to be "random". In light of such "random" behavior, I do not consider modern physics to be causally closed.
29. "few neuroscientists view the brain as a quantum computer. And even if it were, quantum indeterminacy does nothing to make the concept of free will scientifically intelligible." I don't see the brain as a quantum computer either. Nevertheless my previous note explains how quantum indeterminacy can make the concept of free will intelligible.
30. "to the extent that the law of cause and effect is subject to indeterminism—quantum or otherwise—we can take no credit for what happens. There is no combination of these truths that seems compatible with the popular notion of free will." The problem with your conclusion is that you have unnecessarily limited the set of candidates for your "we" and the agent for whom "it seems" to physical human bodies. If "we" are nothing more than that, your conclusion might be correct. But if there is "something more", as many of us suspect, then that extra-material component should be included in the set of candidates for the true seat of consciousness. I am convinced that the most logical explanation is that consciousness, including free will, is seated outside the brain. This explanation would seem compatible with the popular notion of free will.
32. "The sound of the leaf blower intrudes, but I can seize the spotlight of my attention in the next moment and aim it elsewhere." The radio makes a clunking sound when I set it on the table. But when I press the correct buttons, the radio produces the complex sounds of a radio program.
32. "This difference between nonvolitional and volitional states of mind is reflected at the level of the brain—for they are governed by different systems." This difference in sounds produced by the radio is reflected at the level of the radio--for they are governed by different systems.
32. "And the difference between them must, in part, produce the felt sense that there is a conscious self endowed with freedom of will." And the difference between them must, in part, be taken as strong evidence that something outside the radio is responsible for the sounds of the radio program.
32. "As we have begun to see, however, this feeling of freedom arises from our moment-to-moment ignorance of the prior causes of our thoughts and actions." We have "begun to see" no such thing. How can feeling arise from ignorance? Feeling is perhaps the ultimate unexplained aspect of consciousness. It demands and deserves an in-depth logical explanation. The claim that feeling arises from ignorance should be dismissed based on the myriad "ignorant" systems which do not produce feelings and the utter inability to demonstrate any purely physical system that does.
32. "The phrase “free will” describes what it feels like to identify with certain mental states as they arise in consciousness." Yes, feelings and free will are of a piece: they are both unexplained by all purely materialistic theories.
32. "from a deeper perspective (speaking both objectively and subjectively), thoughts simply arise unauthored and yet author our actions." Objectively, to claim that they "simply" arise hardly qualifies as a "deeper perspective". Subjectively, some thoughts do indeed author some of our actions as we all well know from experience. We need a deeper perspective in order to understand how we know that.
34. "Decisions, intentions, efforts, goals, willpower, etc., are causal states of the brain," This is a far reaching claim that I don't think you can justify. You can no doubt correlate blood flow changes in some specific region of the brain with these causal mental experiences, but that would be no different from noticing that changes in current flow in specific circuits in a radio correlate with spoken words coming from the radio. The sounds of the words are generated by the radio circuits but the words themselves originate at the radio station many miles away.
34. "But the next choice you make will come out of the darkness of prior causes that you, the conscious witness of your experience, did not bring into being." Since we know virtually nothing about that darkness, and since consciousness is still unexplained (Dennett's claim to the contrary notwithstanding), we have no basis from which to conclude that the "conscious witness" did not bring the choice into being.
35. "From the perspective of your conscious awareness, you are no more responsible for the next thing you think (and therefore do) than you are for the fact that you were born into this world." Since you know nothing about the relationship between your being born and the establshment of your consciousness, you have no ground to claim that your assertion is a "fact".
36. "Most of us know what it is like to fail in this way—and these experiences are not even slightly suggestive of freedom of will." Yes they are. "Slightly suggestive" is a pretty low bar. You made and acted on the willful choices to buy the self help books, to change your diet, join a gym, etc.
40. "Does this freedom of interpretation require free will? No. It simply suggests that different ways of thinking have different consequences." Simply?? I maintain that we have free will only to choose some of our thoughts. But a pattern of those choices leads to what Harris sees as inevitable action. So the different consequences are a result of our exercise of free will.
40. "We can pursue any line of thought we want—but our choice is the product of prior events that we did not bring into being." Sam, do you think you are powerless to bring your errant thoughts back to the mantra while meditating?
44. "And it is perfectly obvious that I, as the conscious witness of my experience, am not the deep cause of it." You should be careful with your use of superlatives, Sam. Your assertion is not at all obvious to me, much less "perfectly obvious". I say that both the witness of your experience and the deep cause of your actions are mysteries about which we know very little. I suspect, however, that both are intimately connected if not identical.
44. "You will do whatever it is you do, and it is meaningless to assert that you could have done otherwise." Too much is left undefined here: the three "you"s and the notion of meaning in particular. As it is, the assertion itself is "meaningless".
69. "We now know that at least two systems in the brain—often referred to as “dual processes”—govern human cognition, emotion, and behavior." I suggest that we interpret this discovery as evidence that Cartesian Dualism might be right after all.
69. "One is evolutionarily older, unconscious, slow to learn, and quick to respond; the other evolved more recently and is conscious, quick to learn, and slow to respond. The phenomenon of priming, in which subliminally presented stimuli influence a person’s thoughts and emotions, exposes the first of these systems and reveals the reality of complex mental processes at work beneath the level of conscious awareness." This description lines up nicely with elements of my Mars rover analogy. Cognition and emotion reside in JPL. Behavior operates in the rover itself. The autonomous processes occurring in the rover's on-board computers are analogous to the "unconscious" processes of the brain.
71. "masked fearful faces and emotional words drive activity in the amygdala, the hub of emotional processing in the limbic system" This "hub" should be investigated as a possible site for the analogue of the antenna circuits in a Mars rover which link the rover to the conscious processes and functions of the JPL scientists residing in another world.
71. "The subliminal presentation of stimuli poses some conceptual problems, however. As Daniel Dennett points out, it can be difficult (or impossible) to distinguish what was experienced and then forgotten from what was never experienced in the first place—" The conceptual problem is easy to resolve using the Mars rover analogy: information arising from activity occurring in the rover and which failed to get transmitted to JPL would be indistinguishable to the scientists from the case in which the activity hadn't taken place at all.
72. "This ambiguity is largely attributable to the fact that the contents of consciousness must be integrated over time—around 100 to 200 milliseconds" This suggests a transmission delay, again analogous to an interaction between the rover and JPL.
72. "This period of integration allows the sensation of touching an object and the associated visual perception of doing so, which arrive at the cortex at different times, to be experienced as though they were simultaneous." Since all conscious experience associated with the activity of the rover occurs in the mind of the JPL scientist, closely related events seem simultaneous.
72. "Consciousness, therefore, is dependent upon what is generally known as “working memory.”" Analogously, on-board computer memory in the rover is essential to its successful operation. 73. "This suggests that such judgments are retrospective estimates based on the apparent time of movement and not based on an actual awareness of the neural activity that causes the movement" This suggestion is based on the assumption that "actual awareness of the neural activity...causes the movement". This may not be the case. It cannot be the case if consciousness, thus awareness, is resident outside the brain. Making this unwarranted assumption prevents the experiment from shedding any light on the question of consciousness in particular the reality of Cartesian Dualism.
73. "We infer rather than perceive the moment we decided to act." This careless use of the pronoun "we" clouds the question to the point of ambiguity and nonsense. If Dualism is true and consciousness is seated outside the brain, then the "we" having the conscious experience is separate and distinct from the "we" as identified with a human body. In this case, since humans have no direct access to conscious experience other than by introspection, and even in that case the only way the conscious component has of reporting conscious experience to other humans is through complex motor activity involving language functions of the body, significant gaps or delays should be expected in the reporting of putative conscious experiences by the body and the actual conscious experience of the posited seat of consciousness residing outside the body and brain. The body seems to infer the moment whereas consciousness actually perceives and experiences the moment that willful action commences.
©2016 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.