resources_nature_txt_Better understanding of freedom

Understanding freedom better: an interdisciplinary approach between Neuroscience and Philosophy

Author: José Manuel Giménez Amaya. Full Professor de Anatomy y Embriología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. josemanuel.gimenezamaya@uam.es
Published in: J.M. Giménez Amaya. Understanding freedom better: an interdisciplinary approach between Neuroscience and Philosophy. In: C. Diosdado, F. Rodríguez Valls and J. Arana (eds.). Neurophilosophy. Contemporary perspectives. Sevilla: Thémata / place y Valdés; 2010. p. 177-90.
Date of publication: 2010

summaryIn the speech that I present here I intend to summarily illustrate some of the philosophical assumptions that I believe are influencing the neuroscientific study of freedom, as well as certain problems that arise from Neuroscience itself in its global understanding of brain functioning, neural networks and the neurobiological integration of attention, all phenomena that seem to be of crucial importance for an adequate neurobiological understanding of freedom. However, there are also aspects of human life that affect our free actions and that call into question a purely reductionist view of free will, as some neuroscientists claim to do, and that would also require a convincing response from them, so far in my opinion absent. Finally, I will briefly comment on the modern concept of freedom and the need for interdisciplinarity in order to deal fruitfully with these questions that intertwine experimental and sapiential disciplines. The latter is illustrated by taking, as an example, the fact of a subtle persistence of dualism in some of the approaches to the study of freedom and the recovery of the concept of life in our understanding of human activity.

Summary: I present in this note some philosophical background influencing the neurobiological approach to free will. I also stress certain problems emerging from the Neuroscience itself about the understanding of the global functioning of the brain, the neuronal networks and the neurobiological integration of the attention, aspects that I consider crucial for an adequate understanding of freedom. Moreover, there are other aspects of the human life that affect our free will and that are challenging a simply reductionistic outlook of it as presented by some neuroscientist, which demands a convincing answer, absent in my opinion. Finally, I suggest some comments about the modern concept of freedom and the need of interdisciplinarity to fruitfully tackle these questions that intertwine experimental and sapiential disciplines. This last point is illustrated as an example showing the persistence of a dualistic approach to freedom as well as the recuperation of the concept of life in our understanding of the human activity.

This grade on the interdisciplinary approach to the concept of freedom between Neuroscience and Philosophy will be brief. And this for two reasons. The first, obvious, because the topic of freedom is very extensive and a serious reflection on it from a philosophical point of view would take a lot of space and time, and would have to be elaborated by someone much more competent than I am in this sapiential knowledge. The second is more internship: it is simply intended to outline a possible place of meeting between Philosophy and Neuroscience, two disciplines that in recent years are getting closer than one could have supposed not so long ago; with the advantage, moreover, that Neuroscience is the experimental science that is most in search of a relationship with other subjects when faced with questions that it cannot solve exclusively with its own experimental methodology * (1).

This last statement begs the question: why is this the case with neuroscience? The answer is complex and would also take a lot of space to explain in detail*(2), but here I dare to point out at least three reasons. First, because it is a biological discipline that has emerged in an interdisciplinary way in its very origin, whether we consider its remote birth in the 17th century with the English physician Thomas Willis - a scientist in permanent dialogue with the philosophical knowledge of his time * (3)- or its more recent structuring in the 1960s * (4). Second, because the neurobiological programs of study have been concentrating in recent years on the analysis of the so-called higher functions of man, thanks, to a large extent, to the introduction and exponential development of brain imaging techniques, especially functional magnetic resonance imaging. Thirdly, because in its current experimental work, neuroscience is encountering data that cannot be easily framed as clear answers to relatively simple questions: how does our brain function globally, how does our nervous system function as a whole?

Hence, the search for a "neurobiology" of freedom is not an easy task. It is true that this topic has been the subject of an attempt at detailed neuroscientific analysis over the last 30 years, but in the end the task has remained largely unresolved. In my opinion, the frustration has been very fruitful because it has allowed us to see a glimmer of light that explains the failure of the modern dream of experimental science and to consider the need for the presence of a knowledge that can integrate interdisciplinarity in the great questions that affect human beings and human actions* (5).

In the speech I present here, I intend to summarily illustrate some of the philosophical assumptions that I believe are influencing the neuroscientific study of freedom, as well as some of the problems that arise from Neuroscience itself in its global understanding of brain functioning, neural networks and the neurobiological integration of attention, phenomena that seem to be of crucial importance for a proper neurobiological understanding of freedom. However, there are also aspects of human life that affect our free actions, calling into question a purely reductionist view of free will, as some neuroscientists claim to do, and which also requires a convincing response from them, so far in my opinion lacking. Finally, I will briefly comment on the modern concept of freedom and the need for interdisciplinarity in order to deal fruitfully with these questions that intertwine experimental and sapiential disciplines. The latter is illustrated by taking, as an example, the fact of the persistence of dualism in some of the approaches to the study of freedom and the recovery of the concept of life in our understanding of human activity.

The emergence of philosophical thought arises from the approach of the disinterested search for the foundation of the reality that surrounds us * (6). It is a reality which is presented to us in the present and which explains it to us. Since its inception, the two great philosophical problems that are offered to us can be stated as follows: firstly, the question of what is permanent and what is passing in our meeting with reality; secondly, the question of the one and the many, the search for the foundation of unity. In order to know and embrace the global knowledge of reality, what was known in ancient Greece as noús or intellect will be necessary, which allows access to the radical nature of being without remaining strictly speaking in the fragmentary knowledge provided by the senses.

After the fierce battle of ideas that arose between Socrates and the Sophists, suffice it here to consider in broad outline the approach that we can find at sample in his two great continuators: Plato and Aristotle. For Plato, the search for the immutable is centred on the world of ideas, which he considers separate from sensible realities and which have primacy on the ontological plane. This leads him to understand man from a dualistic perspective: the body is something sensible (material) which is added to the soul, an intelligible reality which is superior in that it is destined to the understanding of truth and the Good. This Platonic trait will be exposed in the history of Philosophy on numerous occasions and is of real importance in the understanding of freedom throughout time. However, it will become clearer in the period called modernity.

Aristotle, on the other hand, will extend the Socratic heritage by focusing on vital activities. Understanding man as a living being provides our author with a very important support for affirming the unity existing between the soul (which acts as the vital principle of the human being) and his body. These unitary considerations will provide a much more convincing answer to the great questions posed by the Philosophy and previously pointed out in our writing.

The next turning point that I am interested in highlighting here in the study of man is represented by Descartes. For the French thinker, the most radical aspect of the human being is consciousness. Reality can thus be divided into the so-called res cogitans (thinking substance or consciousness) and the res extensa (material substance). This dualism, which is firmly anchored in man, who is both material substance and consciousness, is also at the basis of many interpretations that affect experimental science as it is understood in modernity. A modernity which, as far as our brief pathway through the history of the Philosophy is concerned, will be culminated by Kant, who adds empiricism and the enlightened knowledge to Cartesian rationalism. In him we find admirably present many of the problems faced by current thought with respect to experimental science in general, and neuroscience in particular: only what is given to us by experimental science is accepted as knowable, but nevertheless, there must be something else that explains man, even if we can say little with the force of a certain knowledge . Comte at plenary session of the Executive Council in the 19th century will declare the establishment in the last two centuries of an experimental knowledge which is now, quite simply, the only one that counts.

Neuroscience is no stranger to this status of complete enthronement of experimental science. However, as we indicated at the beginning, it has the essential characteristic among the biological sciences of having an interdisciplinary history since its origins. We have already mentioned Willis. Now we are interested in mentioning that before its debut as a science per se (in the 60s of the 20th century), the programs of study of the brain was very much influenced by the analysis of mental illnesses, by Psychiatry in general. This is neither the time nor the place to give a historical narrative of the relationship between Neuroscience and Psychiatry, or rather of the influence of Psychiatry on the development of Neuroscience, but I will point out what I understand to be three milestones in the context of this relationship over the last century. First, the influence of Freud and psychoanalysis; second, the finding of psychopharmacology and the observation that we can modify man's higher functions by altering the molecular composition of his nervous system * (7) and, finally, the interdisciplinary impulse professor of Neuroscience developed by the department of Psychiatry at Columbia University in New York * (8). I will now focus solely on the first of these.

It is obvious that I do not intend at this point to make a summary of Freud's ideas in the history of thought. I simply want to point out three of them that, in my opinion, have been tremendously influential in the development of Neuroscience and, to a large extent, in how neuroscientists observe the brain and wonder with perplexity about the organic characteristics of this tissue that allows us to do what we do, in our specific case also the exercise of freedom. They can be stated as follows* (9): (1) it is well known that we have an unconscious mind; (2) we often do not know what drives us to act the way we do; (3) the first 5 years of life have a much greater influence than previously thought on our training and psychological make-up in adult life.

It is obvious that, with the premises we have just mentioned in mind, the topic of freedom is served. But let us now see how neuroscience has approached the topic of freedom. It has done so in two main ways. Firstly, through experiments developed by Libet and his group in California in the last 30 years of the last century * (10) and currently by Haggard and collaborators in London * (11); in all these programs of study the aim is to analyse the phenomenon that we have activated our motor system without being aware of it. Secondly, through powerful brain imaging techniques that have allowed a detailed analysis of the activations and deactivations that occur in the brain in the face of very sophisticated experimental paradigms of decision-making or choice * (12).

I am not going to describe in detail the experiments of Libet and collaborators or the more recent version of them by Haggard's group or Soon and colleagues* (13) which we have already done in other works to which I refer the reader* (14), or a detailed analysis of the neuroimaging programs of study that explore aspects related to free will. But I do think it pays to say something about why these attempts at neuroscience challenge our notion of freedom.

The thesis behind the scientific trials outlined above is that the motor commands for the exercise of an activity that we think is voluntary are present in our brains by way of activation of neural Structures long before we are aware of the movement itself. The most obvious interpretation would be that we may be caught in the mirage of feeling free in voluntary motor exercise when actually those movements are organised by our brains before we realise that we are doing them apparently because we want to. For some, the possibility of what we call freedom would be that in any case there is always the possibility of exercising a veto over these movements at various stages of the voluntary movement development * (15). As for the neuroimaging programs of study , for some researchers the appearance of brain activations and deactivations in the face of complex cognitive and affective exploration paradigms would be the clear sample that it is our brain that controls human thought and action, and that the perception of these phenomena that become conscious is nothing more than another sample of the very neurobiology that sustains them.

It is now up to us to reflect on the above-mentioned results. The thesis I intend to defend is that denying the existence of freedom by using Neuroscience as a point of support has many problems. To develop this briefly, I propose to do so in two ways: firstly, by making reference letter an updated understanding of how the neural networks that regulate voluntary movement are organised and, as a corollary, with an approach to the phenomenon of attention in the neurobiological context of our global brain activation; secondly, with some comments on some ideas to bear in mind when interpreting the results obtained by neuroimaging techniques.

Let us turn, therefore, to the first point raised. It is increasingly accepted that the organisation of the motor system is based on the functional involvement of extensive neural networks (from the associative cortexes * (16) to the motor neurons of the spinal cord) * (17)which are in continuous activation * (18), so that detecting neural activity in any of the morphological points of these networks does not necessarily imply that they are governed independently of what is usually understood as will. In other words, the fact that they do not fall within our "consciousness" does not mean that they are not freely controlled by the subject. Interpreting the experiments mentioned above in the context of a lack of free will would be a clear inadequacy in the discussion of this point. But following this path of reasoning about the neurobiological interpretation of unfreedom perhaps speaks in itself of a deficient understanding of how our nervous system is organised in the processes of attention and consciousness* (19). In neurobiological terms, attention and consciousness do not represent a binomial with a direct relationship. Suffice it to point to a few examples. The most classic example is that of a group of individuals who are instructed to pass a ball to each other while focusing their attention on the people chosen to send it to them. If during the development experiment someone dressed in a conspicuous costume passes among the players, many of them will not notice his presence * (20). This is also proven in so-called masking experiments * (21): the subject is presented with one image for a short time and another for a much longer time, and it is observed that his reaction (explored by different experimental paradigms) is based solely on the latter, even though we know with certainty that he has received the information from the former, which we can show with other exploratory methods: simply put, if we could speak in this way, the nervous system interprets the temporal code of perceptual presence adjusted to the importance of the perception itself. Finally, it is well known, as Scheler has shown us, that we can differentiate the value or the beauty intuited in, say, a work of art, from the sentimental state that is provoked in the subject by it* (22).

Secondly, let us now turn to programs of study neuroimaging. Here it is important not to forget what Fuchs has observed with acuity and determination: the association of subjective experience to the images that these techniques provide requires some assumptions to be taken into account * (23). First of all, it must be accepted that neuroimaging programs of study only illustrates a partial aspect of the biological processes that are taking place. We see statistically, for example, which brain areas receive more blood flow when a certain phenomenon occurs, but we do not know whether this increase is the direct cause of the phenomenon being explored or, on the contrary, its effect. Secondly, the proper interpretation of the results depends very much on the experimental design that is adopted and on which outline is followed in the exploration; this is often not explained in detail, so that the conclusions drawn by non-experts are too simplistic * (24). And finally, it should not be forgotten that, in general, the activities of daily life are complex and are not easy to explore without subjecting them to simplifications that can denaturalise them; in fact, the usual exploratory paradigms in this subject of experiments lack the "global" component that occurs, for example, in social interactions * (25). For all these reasons, Fuchs rightly warns that neuroimaging techniques are excellent for exploring the human nervous system, but it would be very risky to rely exclusively on their results to draw unitary conclusions about human behaviour* (26).

So far we have tried to show that denying human freedom on the basis of neuroscientific experiments is not easy. Not even from a neurobiological point of view. But in the end, in this position that tries to create a "neurobiology of freedom" closed to immateriality, we must include some additional factors that may further complicate the overall picture of our problem. Among them I would like to point out the following: the presence of fortune (tyche) * (27), of temperament and character, of feelings and emotions or of ageing. The latter speaks to us of the existence of an indeterminacy in human activity which escapes, to a large extent, a closed consideration in favour of brain biology alone. Let us develop, if only briefly, some examples of this.

Aristotle tells us that fortune or luck is distinguished from mere chance in that it refers to objects that come from human action or can influence it and thus the prosperity of the one who is carrying out that action* (28). Although it is very present in our existence, fortune escapes to a large extent a logical explanation of the reality that surrounds us. It is also uncertain. It is, therefore, a coincidental cause in the repertoire of our free or voluntary actions. As Llano rightly says: "The most disturbing aspect of the question, however, is that, not because it lacks in itself a rational explanation, fortune ceases to have ethical importance" * (29). Greek tragedy in this respect has many examples to testify to this. We therefore find here a certain indeterminacy in our actions that we can hardly anchor to the neurobiological constitution of our being.

Something similar could also be said about feelings and emotions. For Aristotle these aspects of human life are very important in order to achieve a full life, with an influence on the lucidity to detect the good or evil of our actions * (30). But they also represent a volitional written request that responds in a very characteristic way to the indeterminacy and accidentality of the world in which we move.

Finally, ageing. Freedom has no small relationship with this very human characteristic, at least this has been pointed out by some thinkers in the personalist and phenomenological tradition* (31). As we grow older we somehow lose freedom. And this is accurately expressed by the German philosopher Landsberg in an interesting book graduate Essai sur l'expérience de la mort, in which he states (we transcribe the translation made by Rodríguez Duplá * (32)): "The structure of our life changes noticeably at every moment. The pressure of the past increases, while the possibilities of the future diminish. Man feels less and less free; less and less able to transform the meaning of his life by shaping his future. As he grows older, he not only loses his sense of freedom, but to some extent loses that freedom itself. This is, no doubt, terribly true" * (33).

It seems clear, therefore, that any attempt to anchor our freedom final exclusively to purely neurobiological mechanisms that command brain activations and deactivations is condemned to unconvincingly justify many aspects of our actions and our own biology that do not have a secure and closed determination. It is clear, therefore, that the phenomenon of freedom demands from us a much more open and interdisciplinary study. Let us thus return once again to the philosophical view.

And the first thing that arises is a simple question: but what kind of freedom are we talking about? Certainly, freedom is said in many senses* (34). It is already well known when speaking of free will to draw the classic distinction between external and internal freedom. We enjoy inner freedom when our decisions are not merely the effect of causes over which we have no control. External freedom, on the other hand, speaks to us of the possibilities of carrying out what we have determined to do. However, more recent modernity and, in general, today's society has received with greater enthusiasm the distinction made between positive and negative freedom, especially after the historian of political ideas Isaiah Berlin dedicated to them the famous article graduate "Two Concepts of Freedom" published in his well-known book Four Essays on Freedom* (35). Let us see what these new approaches to freedom mean.

Positive freedom means self-determination. I am free if I myself am in command of my life and my actions; if I am the one who decides about myself and my relationships; if, at final, I am the author of the path of my existence. If someone else decides for me, if my life is involved in a kind of manipulation of my decisions, it can rightly be said that I do not possess positive freedom. Negative freedom, on the other hand, means non-interference. I am free in the latter sense if I can have a space in which no one prevents me from living and developing as I wish or as I see fit.

One might think that the distinction we have just made between positive and negative freedom as self-determination and non-interference is substantially irrelevant. It seems obvious that the less interference we have in the exercise of our conduct the freer we will be. But if we analyse this matter a little more carefully we get into curious situations; for example, someone who suffers no external interference from any subject and lacks positive freedom, the ability to direct his or her life adequately. In other words, we could say that in the latter case there would be a lack of congruence between the factual "I", the "I" we really are, and the ideal "I", the one we tend to be our best self, the one we should be* (36).

This last point takes us back quite a few centuries, specifically to ancient Greece. There Plato showed us the core of this discussion that we are discussing about the positive-negative freedom binomial. This Greek philosopher always urged us to overcome this split between the empirical self and the ideal self by trying to be friends with ourselves. We are made for the good and our will is strained to achieve that fullness of our nature. In his acclaimed dialogue Gorgias masterfully and unforgettably exposed this split of the self in the tyrant's conduct* (37).

This same form of argument has been more recently proposal by the Scottish-born moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, as Oakes tells us in his interesting article on the thought of the Anglo-Saxon thinker based in the United States* (38). For MacIntyre the binomial between the ideal self and the empirical self can be stated as follows: man-as-he-could-be-if-he-realised-his-essential-nature versus man-as-he-happens-to-be. Man's fulfilment is measured by the adequacy of his orientation towards the good according to his nature (teleology) in clear contrast to the factual status in which he often finds himself. The fullness of development also entails the maximum Degree of freedom. Freedom that has to do with what Aristotle called proaíresis and which has been translated as "choice". It is not a kind of causal agent, but rather the ability to make choices against the background of a life * (39).

Two final considerations to conclude this brief essay. One is to note a danger in which we move when dealing with this subject of issues and the other is a suggestion to favour interdisciplinary dialogue. The danger lies in the fact that dualism as we commonly understand it is still present in many of the debates that deal with the so-called mind-brain problem. To dualism we could apply MacIntyre's well-known words about relativism or scepticism as one of those doctrines that have been refuted too many times. But, continues the Anglo-Saxon moral philosopher, there is no truer sign that a doctrine bears something true that must not be forgotten than that in the course of the history of Philosophy it has had to be refuted again and again. Genuinely refutable doctrines, our author concludes, are refutable once and for all* (40). It is interesting to note that another modern-day philosopher of the mind belonging to the analytic tradition, John Searle, expresses himself in more or less analogous terms. For this American author, dualism is embedded in a unique way in the way we approach our way of thinking in the West* (41).

Finally, the suggestion is aimed at proposing the recovery of the notion of life in these interdisciplinary programs of study between Neuroscience and Philosophy. This concept has been very sharply developed by some German philosophers over the last century*(42). I do not intend to make a detailed summary of this whole concept but simply to point out some characteristics that differentiate man from animals and that enable him to carry out the activities he does* (43).

In contrast to humans, animals have a central position in their relational possibilities with the surrounding world (Umwelt). They have, in the first place, the world which they perceive perceptively (Merkwelt); they also have the surrounding world to which they tend (Wirkwelt). Here their sphere of action moves in both cases. The human being, on the other hand, in the perceptual and tendency states is sample much more open and wider. In a way, it can be said that human beings have abandoned the "centring" of their relational life that is characteristic of animal life. And as Spaemann repeatedly points out, this decentring occurs with the decisive step of the finding of the Other, which is simultaneous with the finding of himself and which constitutes the first foundation of his social life * (44). In this way, man does not properly have Umwelt, the surrounding world, but he hasWelt, the relational world, openness to the world. Max Scheler has left us an unforgettable record of this human openness: "But what is this 'spirit', this new and decisive principle? Rarely have so many mistakes been made with one word - a word under which only a few people think of something precise. If we place at the apex of the concept of spirit a particular function of knowledge, a class of knowledge that only the spirit can give, then the fundamental property of a 'spiritual' being in its existential independence, freedom or autonomy - or that of the centre of its existence - from the bonds and pressure of the organic, of 'life', of all that belongs to 'life' and thus also to the impulsive intelligence proper to it. Such a 'spiritual' being is no longer bound to its impulses, nor to the surrounding world (Umwelt), but is 'free vis-à-vis the surrounding world', is open to the world (weltgeöffnet), according to the expression we like to use. Such a spiritual being has a 'world' (Welt)" * (45).

Notes

  1. Giménez Amaya, J.M., Sánchez-Migallón, S., De la Neurociencia a la Neuroética. Narrativa histórica y reflexión filosófica, Eunsa, Pamplona 2010. Cfr. Sánchez-Migallón, S., Giménez Amaya, J. M., "Neuroética", in Fernández Labastida, F., Mercado, J. A. (eds.),Philosophica: Enciclopedia filosófica on line: http://www.philosophica.info/file/2009/voces/neuroetica/Neuroetica.html
  2. I refer the interested reader to our works: Giménez-Amaya, J.M., Murillo, J.I., "Mente y cerebro en la neurociencia contemporánea. Una aproximación a su estudio interdisciplinar", Scripta Theologica 39 (2007), pp. 607-635; Giménez-Amaya, J.M., Murillo, J.I., "Neurociencia y libertad: una aproximación interdisciplinar", Scripta Theologica, 41 (2009), pp. 13-46.
  3. Cf. Molnar, Z., "Thomas Willis (1621-1675), the founder of clinical neuroscience", Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5 (2004), pp. 329-335; Potter, R., The Greatest Benefit to Mankind. A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present, Fontana Press, London 1997, pp. 241-244.
  4. Cfr. Rosell, A., De las Heras, S., Giménez-Amaya, J.M., "Neurociencia: ejemplo del abordaje multidisciplinary como estrategia eficaz en la research científica", Revista de Neurología, 27 (1998), pp. 1071-1073.
  5. Cf. MacIntyre, A., God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., Lanham, Maryland 2009, pp. 173-180.
  6. In this brief introductory philosophical exhibition I follow Murillo, J.M., voice "Antropología", in Izquierdo, C., Burgraff, J., Arocena, F.M. (eds.) , Diccionario de Teología, Eunsa, Pamplona 2006, pp. 29-49.
  7. Cf. Giménez-Amaya, J. M., Murillo, J. I., "Mente y cerebro...".
  8. Cfr. Giménez Amaya, J. M., Sánchez-Migallón, S., De la Neurociencia....
  9. I follow Professor James J. Gray of the Department of Psychology at American University in Washington, D.C. in this.
  10. Interesting papers to consult by Libet and his group include the following: Libet, B., Whright, E.W., Gleason, C.A., "Readiness potentials preceding unrestricted spontaneous pre-planned voluntary acts", Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology, 54 (1982), pp. 322-325; Libet, B., Gleason, C.A., Whright, E.W., Pearl, D.K., "Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness-potential). The unconscious initiative of a freely voluntary action", Brain, 106 (1983), pp. 623-642; Libet, B., Whright, E.W., Gleason, C.A., "Preparation or intention-to-act, in relation to pre-event potentials recorded at the vertex", Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology, 56 (1983), pp. 367-72. Around this topic, Libet has also published other later articles, such as: Libet, B., "Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action", Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8 (1985), pp. 529-566; Libet, B., "Do We Have Free Will?", Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6 (1999), pp. 47-57.
  11. Interesting papers to consult by Haggard and his group include the following: Haggard, P., Eimer, M., "On the relation between brain potentials and the awareness of voluntary movements", Experimental Brain Research, 126 (1999), pp. 128-133; Haggard, P., "Conscious intention and motor cognition", Trends in Cognitive Scence, 9 (2005), pp. 290-295; Haggard, P., "Human volition: towards a neuroscience of will", Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9 (2008), pp. 934-946.
  12. For some very current examples see: Koten, J.W. Jr., Wood, G., Hagoort, P., Goebel, R., Propping, P., Willmes, K., Boomsma, D.I., "Genetic contribution to variation in cognitive function: an FMRI study in twins", Science 323 (2009), pp. 1737-1740.; Canessa, N., Motterlini, M., Di Dio, C., Perani, D., Scifo, P., Cappa, S.F., Rizzolatti, G., "Understanding Others' Regret: An fMRI Study", PLoS ONE, 4 (2009), e0007402. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007402; Harris, S., Kaplan, J.T., Curiel, A., Bookheimer, S.Y., Iacoboni, M., Cohen, M.S., "The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief", PLoS ONE, 4 (2009), e0007272. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007272.
  13. Cf. Soon, C.S., Brass, M., Heinze, H. J, Haynes, J.D, "Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain", Nature Neuroscience, 11 (2008), pp. 543-545.
  14. 29 April 2008; Murillo, J.I., Giménez-Amaya, J.M., "Tiempo, conciencia y libertad: consideraciones en torno a los experimentos de B. Libet y colaboradores", certificate Philosophica, 17 (2008), pp. 291-306. Cfr. Giménez Amaya, J.M., Murillo, J.I., "Libertad anticipada", enAcienciacierta, http://www.unav.es/acienciacierta.
  15. Cf. Haggard, P., "Human volition: ...".
  16. The multimodal associative cerebral cortexes are those portions of the cerebral cortex that integrate sensory information from several modalities: vision, hearing, somatosensory ... They are the most developed in the human species.
  17. Cf. Benninghoff, A., Drenckhahn, D., Anatomie (Band II), Elsevier, München 2004, pp. 538-546.
  18. Cf. Kilner, J.M., Vargas, C., Duval, S., Blakemore, S.J., Sirigu, A., "Motor activation prior to observation of a predicted movement", Nature Neuroscience, 7 (2004), pp. 1299-1301. According to these authors: "Previous research has shown that some of the same motor regions are activated both when performing and when observing a movement. Here we demonstrate in human subjects that such motor activity also occurs prior to observing someone else's action. This suggests that the mere knowledge of an upcoming movement is sufficient to excite one's own motor system, enabling people to anticipate, rather than react to, others' actions". The underlining is mine.
  19. Cf. Baars, B.J., Gage, N.M., Cognition, Brain, and Consciousness. Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience, Elsevier, San Diego 2007, pp. 225-253.
  20. Cf. Baars, B.J., Gage, N.M., Cognition, Brain,..., p. 242. p. 242.
  21. Cf. Baars, B.J., Gage, N.M., Cognition, Brain,..., p. 242. p. 242.
  22. Cf. Scheler, M., Formalism in ethics and non-formal ethics of values, section II, Northwestern University Press, 1985.
  23. Cf. Fuchs, T., "Ethical issues in neuroscience", Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 19 (2006), pp. 600-607.
  24. Cf. Illes, J., Racine, E., "Imaging or imagining? A neuroethics challenge informed bygenetics", American Journal of Bioethics, 5 (2005), pp. 5-18.
  25. 25
  26. Cf. Lieberman, M. D., Williams K. D., "Does rejection hurt? An fMRI study of social exclusion', Science, 302 (2003), pp. 290-292.
  27. Cf. Fuchs, T., "Ethical issues in ...", p. 601; and also in the same line of argument see O'Shea, M., The Brain. A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, New York 2005, pp. 122-124.
  28. It is worth recalling here the words of M. Nussbaum in La fragilidad del bien. Fortuna y ética en la tragedia y la Philosophy griega, Visor, Madrid 1995, p. 343: "The fundamental question we have asked ourselves is to what extent and in what way the world affects us (or should affect us) in our attempt to live a valuable life".
  29. I follow Llano, A., "El ser coincidental en la ética de Aristóteles", Tópicos, 30 (2006), pp.55-80.
  30. Cfr. Llano, A., "El ser coincidental ...", p. 60.
  31. Cfr. Llano, A., "El ser coincidental ...", p. 63.
  32. Cf. Rodríguez Duplá, L., "Mors certa. Sobre la teoría scheleriana de la muerte", in Cordovilla, A., Sánchez Caro, J.M., Del Cura, S. (Dirs.), Dios y el hombre en Cristo. Homenaje al Prof. Dr. Olegario González de Cardedal, Sígueme, Salamanca 2006, pp.585-606.
  33. Cfr. Rodríguez Duplá, L., "Mors certa ...", p. 595.
  34. Cf. Landsberg, P.L., Essai su l'expérience de la mort, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris 1936, p. 13, underlining added.
  35. In the following exhibition on freedom I am very indebted to the work of Rodríguez Duplá, L., "Sobre el sentido cristiano de la libertad", Collectanea Scientifica Compostellana, 24 (2007), pp.327-341.
  36. Cf. Berlin, I., Cuatro ensayos sobre la libertad, Alianza, Madrid 1988.
  37. Cf. Scheler, M., Ordo Amoris, Caparrós Editores, Madrid 1996.
  38. Cf. Plato, Diálogos II, Gredos, Madrid 1983. In our work Giménez-Amaya, J.M., Murillo, J.I., "Neurociencia y libertad ..." we said: "One of the most memorable passages in the history of the Philosophy is the discussion between Socrates and a young man called Polo in Plato's Gorgias. The latter is convinced that no one can be more envied than the tyrant, because he alone can do as he pleases. Surprisingly, however, Socrates points out that the tyrant is not really powerful, because although he does what he likes, he does not do what he really wants. And, as Rodríguez Duplá rightly remarks, we are all familiar with the experience of ceasing to want something because we have discovered new things that were previously unknown: in other words, we may want things that, if we were better informed, we would not want at all. And this, in Socrates' view, is what happens to the tyrant. The tyrant is a poor ignoramus; and so he wants apparently what he does not really want: he does not really realise that to commit injustice is the worst thing that can happen to a man. All this is a monumental misfortune of the unfortunate tyrant, who, had he known it, would have tried to avoid it at all costs".
  39. Cf. Oakes, E.T., "The achievement of Alasdair MacIntyre", First Things, 65 (1996), pp. 22-26.
  40. Cfr. Murillo, J.I., Giménez-Amaya, J.M., "Tiempo, conciencia ...".
  41. The English text is attributed to Alasdair MacIntyre and is quoted by N. Fearn, Philosophy. The latest answers to the oldest questions, Atlantic Books, London 2006, p. 131. The quotation is as follows: "(Relativism, like skepticism), is one of those doctrines that have by now been refuted a number of times too often. Nothing is perhaps a surer sign that a doctrine embodies some not-to-be neglected truth than that in the course of the history of philosophy it should have been refuted again and again. Genuinely refutable doctrines only need to be refuted once".
  42. Cf. Searle, J.R., "Towards a Science of Consciousness". lecture given in 2006 at the Center for Consciousness at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, USA. Broadcast on the programme "The Philosopher's Zone" on ABC National Radio in Australia on 20 January 2007. The Australian radio station's own transcription of the text is as follows: "(...) dualism is more pervasive than I had realised. I always thought that it was a peculiar feature of our intellectual tradition (...). But in any case, I thought Cartesianism is more widespread; it does seem to come very naturally to people to think that they are both a mind and a body".
  43. See, for example, Jonas, H., El principio vida: hacia una biología filosófica, publishing house Trotta, Madrid 2000; Spaemann, R., Lo natural y lo racional: ensayos de antropología, Rialp, Madrid 1987; Scheler, M., El puesto del hombre en el cosmos, Alba, Barcelona 2000.
  44. I am indebted in the following exhibition to the work of Palacios, J.M., "Sobre la esencia de la libertad humana", Torre de los Lujanes32 (1996), pp. 27-35.
  45. Cfr. Spaemann, R., Personas: acerca de la distinción entre "algo" y "alguien", Eunsa, Pamplona 2000; Rodríguez Duplá, L., "Los fundamentos del ser social", Pérez de Laborda, A. (ed.), Dios para pensar, Publicaciones de la School de Teología San Dámaso, Madrid 2002, pp. 49-69.
  46. Cf. Scheler, M., Man's Place in the Cosmos, II (GW 9, 31-32) (trans. Juan Miguel Palacios).