TED Conversations

Matthieu Miossec

Doctoral Student - Genetic Medecine (Congenital Heart Disease),


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There is no such thing as free will.

Some questions that might be relevant to the debate on the existence or otherwise of free will:

What do we mean exactly when we talk about free will and how do we make sense of it in the light of our current scientific knowledge?

Can we really claim to have indeterministic brains in an essentially deterministic world?

Is it fair to separate our thought processes from the rest of our body?

Is free will the illusion of complexity in the brain as chance is the illusion of complexity in the world?


Closing Statement from Matthieu Miossec

Both sides of the debate have been strongly defended in this debate. When re-reading this debate, one should try and understand in what sense one means 'free-will' as many have meant very different things by 'free-will'. I will let my fellow TEDsters decide what the conclusion of this debate is rather than imposing my own view.

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  • Apr 10 2011: One of my favorite ponderings! I'm not even going to try to answer it but would love to share a bit of my perspective.

    First, the burden of proof always lies on the claimant and hence free will is something that remains to be proved. So by default we should be refusing to believe it exists from a scientific perspective, which asks us to be skeptical about things before we accept it. But that is hardly the case and it seems we have a STRONG innate inclination to believe that we are acting on a free will. This innate inclination might be a necessary evolutionary adaptation, which our dear Robert Wright calls one of the many self-deceptive traits of our psychology. There is every reason to challenge the idea of free will.

    Another related but sort of irrelevant fact: it has been established in scientific experiments that people who are happy and confident have a very strong 'feeling' of free will and this 'feeling' reduces proportionately as you move down on that scale with depressives feeling like they have very little control and free will in their lives. Little risky to re-phrase abstracts of experiments, but it is on those lines. Great, great debate. I personally believe it is a self-deceptive evolutionary adaptation.
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      Apr 10 2011: Funny you should mention Robert Wright as his name came up in earlier conversation. I mentionned to Christopher Cop a conversation he and Daniel Dennet had about free will. The link to the conversation is still there if you want to check it out.
    • Apr 11 2011: I agree, it all depends on how much self deception one needs to deal with reality

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