On 3/2/2013 1:18 PM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
On Sun, Mar 3, 2013 at 7:45 AM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:
"A new theory of brain function by Peter Ulric Tse, a professor of cognitive
neuroscience at Dartmouth College, suggests that free will is real and has a
biophysical basis in the microscopic workings of our brain cells.
Tse's findings, which contradict recent claims by neuroscientists and
philosophers that free will is an illusion, have theological, ethical,
scientific and legal implications for human behavior, such as whether people
are accountable for their decisions and actions. His book shows how free
will works in the brain by examining its information-processing architecture
at the level of neural connections. He offers a testable hypothesis of how
the mental causes the physical.
In contrast with philosophers who use logic rather than data to argue
whether mental causation or consciousness can exist, he explores these
issues by starting with neuroscientific data. Recent neurophysiological
breakthroughs reveal that neurons evaluate information they receive, which
can change the way that other neurons will evaluate information and "fire"
in the future. Tse's research shows that such informational causation cannot
change the physical basis of current information, but it can change the
neuronal basis of future mental events. This gets around the standard
argument against free will that is based on the impossibility of
self-causation. Tse lays out his argument in his new book titled "The Neural
Basis of Free Will"—https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/neural-basis-free-will"
Another nail in the coffin of simplistic physical models of consciousness. I
noticed that his view seems to completely support my ideas about
consciousness being longitudinal through private time rather than publicly
accessible during any given moment. His findings seem to suggest a
panpsychic, sub-personal, and sense-based (informational causation)
biophysiology in which "the mental causes the physical."
So yeah. It's not random or determined by physics, rather it is intention
which drives physics on many different and conflicting scales.
>From this page it appears that he *does* think it is random. It has to
be either random or determined. If you say it's something else you're
making up something that is not only physically but also logically
"Peter U. Tse is a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at
Dartmouth who argues for a novel form of mental causation that he
calls "criterial causation."
The idea is that large numbers of neurons (a complex of cells or "cell
assembly") are likely to be involved in even the simplest thoughts and
actions. Tse argues that the brain may be able to modify dynamically
the probabilities that individual neurons are "firing." He calls this
"dynamical synaptic reweighting."
Since the process by which a pre-synaptic neuron releases chemical
neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft is a statistical one (large
numbers of neurotransmitter molecules must diffuse across the cleft to
activate ion channel receptors on the post-synaptic neuron), Tse says
that there is some ontological randomness in the process. He argues
that this is real indeterministic chance, quantum mechanical in
How exactly such weights or probabilities of firing might work is not
understood, but Tse argues that weights would constitute
"informational" criteria as opposed to being simply physical. They
could represent mental events that supervene on the physical brain
As I read it, Tse is just saying that at the neural level there is learning (changes the
physical requirements for firing in the future) which is in some degree random.
"The key point is that criteria will be met in unpredictable ways if there is inherent
variability or noise in inputs, such as can be introduced by the randomness inherent in
neurotransmitter molecules crossing the synapse. Just because new criteria are set up by a
nervous system in a manner dictated by the satisfaction of preexisting criteria does not
mean that either the future or present criteria will be met in a predetermined manner.
Moreover, because our neurons set criteria for the firing of other neurons in response to
their future input, the choices realized in the satisfying of those criteria are our own
Up to that point it is just compatibilit determinism plus some noise (randomness). But
then he gratuitously asserts that this constitutes in 'strong free will' (whatever that
"Ontological indeterminism and neuronal criterial causation permits a physical causal
basis for a strong free will."
He assumes that the randomness is really the brain determining it's future behavior, which
is metaphorically true of any learning but is a mixing of levels He blurs over the point
he had made that the change is random insofar as it is not deterministic and implies that
"criterial causation" is something called "free will".
"Criterial causation therefore offers a path toward free will where a brain can determine
how it will behave given particular types of future input. This can be milliseconds in the
future or, in some cases, even years away."
I've no reason to doubt his theory that neurons change the synaptic strength of their
connections (both excitory and inhibitory) as they fire and that there is a random
component to this change and that the cumulative effect is that future responses will not
be strictly predictable in any practical sense, but it may be broadly predictable in the
sense of learned behavior.
However there's nothing in this theory of "criterial causation" that would prevent a robot
from having it.
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