Prominent Philosopher Accepts No Free Will or Conscious Control of Behavior, Sorry
Let’s set aside personal, philosophical, theolological and even criminal and social science/psychological discussions of free will and conscious control of behavior. There are immediate and very practical problem-solving needs for the facts on what really causes behavior.
Whether customers, or clients, partners, employees and other stakeholders in business the profession and policy make conscious decisions about their behavior and have free will in choosing to act, buy, etc is a VERY important fact.
The good news is the oft-quoted philosopher Dan Dennett, a defender of the concept of free will and conscious control of behavior has admitted he was wrong. But, he only did so on the BBC, well outside of the USA media and intellectual circles, so it got no coverage Below is a summary of the discussion. A full reporting can be found here.
“We evolved from uncomprehending bacteria. Our minds, with all their remarkable talents, are the result of endless biological experiments.
Our genius is not God-given. It’s the result of millions of years of trial and error.
Our brain cells are robots that respond to chemical signals. The motor proteins they create are robots. And so it goes on…Our brains, like our bodies, have evolved over hundreds of millions of years. They are the result of millions and millions of years of haphazard trial and error evolutionary experiments.
From an evolutionary perspective, our ability to think is no different from our ability to digest…Both these biological activities can be explained by Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection, often described as the survival of the fittest.
“Our minds are made of molecular machines, otherwise known as brain cells. And if you find this depressing then you lack imagination…We’re not just robots”, he says. “We’re robots, made of robots, made of robots”.
Human consciousness is the same, says Dennett. “It’s the brain’s ‘user illusion’ of itself,” he says. It feels real and important to us but it just isn’t a very big deal.
“The brain doesn’t have to understand how the brain works”.