Changing a brain to save a life: how far should rehabilitation go?

What's the difference between brainwashing and rehabilitation?

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  • The book and movie, A Clockwork Orange, powerfully asks us to consider the murky lines between rehabilitation, brainwashing, and dehumanization.
  • There are a variety of ways, from hormonal treatment to surgical lobotomies, to force a person to be more law abiding, calm, or moral.
  • Is a world with less free will but also with less suffering one in which we would want to live?
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The great free will debate

Philosophers, theoretical physicists, psychologists, and others consider what or who is really in control.

  • What does it mean to have—or not have—free will? Were the actions of mass murderers pre-determined billions of years ago? Do brain processes trump personal responsibility? Can experiments prove that free will is an illusion?
  • Bill Nye, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Michio Kaku, Robert Sapolsky, and others approach the topic from their unique fields and illustrate how complex and layered the free will debate is.
  • From Newtonian determinism, to brain chemistry, to a Dennett thought experiment, explore the arguments that make up the free will landscape.

How philosophy blends physics with the idea of free will

How does philosophy try to balance having free will with living in a deterministic universe?

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  • People feel like they have free will but often have trouble understanding how they can have it in a deterministic universe.
  • Several models of free will exist which try to incorporate physics into our understanding of our experience.
  • Even if physics could rule out free will, there would still be philosophical questions.
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Is free will an illusion?

Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.

  • The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
  • According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
  • "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."

What’s the deal with free will?

Some experts say there's no such thing. I choose to believe there likely is.

Everyone wants to be free; or at least have some choice in life.

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