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External Event - Discussion on Free Will & Determinism

This is a talk and discussion organised by our friends at LAAG

Could a person’s behaviour have been different in a certain situation if they willed it?

Multi-talented LAAGer, Dean (also a member of the 'Pints of LAAGer band!) has very kindly agreed to give us a short talk about this subject: Dean is a neuroscientist and has a special interest in this area. The talk will be followed by open discussion/debate.

Some possible questions

  • What is meant by freewill? If according to determinism everything has a definite cause then is free will random?
  • Is all behaviour is determined by external and internal forces acting on the person? E.g. external = parents rewarding certain type of behaviour, therefore further encouraging it, whilst an internal force would be that of hormones. Or are matters are slightly more complex...despite ext/internal forces, do people have free will to choose their behaviour?
  • How do behaviorists and psychologists view the issue? According to Freud, trivial phenomenons such as calling someone by someone else’s name are due to definite causes in the person’s motivational system. Freudian slips are involuntary but motivated errors that reveal a person’s true desires. Do internal systems such as defence mechanisms determine the way people behave as adults or is behaviour is determined by a person’s genes and internal systems?
  • What about mental illness? In regards to mental disorders this approach states that it is not the patients fault they are ill. Their biology pre-disposes them to certain conditions and therefore cannot be controlled unless their biological make up is manipulated. This has been proved, to an extent, with the knowledge that disorders such as schizophrenia are as a result of high levels of dopamine within the brain. Freud stated that psychoanalysis is based on the belief that people can change their behaviour. Could it be it that determinism does have an effect on the world but not on humans in which case there are many implications which have been left unanswered...
  • In order to expect moral responsibility, must one must accept the concept of free will? If an individual’s behaviour is determined by forces beyond an individual’s control then the individual cannot be held responsible for their actions. However our laws insist that adults do have individual responsibility for their actions and so implicitly society supports freewill...
  • Is there a medium between the two extreme views? Is the issue of the extent to which we have free will is more of a philosophical question rather than scientific, as both beliefs are unfalsifiable?


We meet upstairs (through door marked 'Restaurant') from 19:00, for those who want to have a little social drink beforehand. Though these Wednesday events are usually structured debates/discussions, they are nevertheless fairly informal; so the bar is usually open upstairs and feel free to order food (it's simple but pretty good).

We aim to start the discussion promptly at 19:30. Please try to turn up well BEFORE 19:30 if at all possible as a courtesy to others :-) But if a late arrival can't be helped, no worries, just grab a chair and come in quietly :-)

'Official' end time for discussion is 9pm, but this is flexible if people want to continue with the discussion; usually we have some social time afterwards (until the pub throws us out!)

Price: As a thank you to Dean, we will be taking donations for his chosen charity.

Join or login to comment.

  • Brian

    Thanks Dean for the great talk. I get it now! we are run by loads of black boxes, that come up with suggested scenarios, that we can go with or not. So we have free wont! That explains the state of humanity today!

    March 16, 2013

  • Steve C.

    Myself and 3 others turned up just as the Q&A started, I wish we had come to the event rather than the Stephen Weinberg lecture we actually attended. Great subject and enjoyed the chat afterwards

    March 15, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    The lecture was brilliant, well presented , clear and for me conclusive

    March 14, 2013

  • Sophie T.

    Really enjoyed this entertaining, educational & thought-provoking talk. Thank you Dean.

    March 14, 2013

  • Jason

    Excellent. Knowledgable speaker. Well presented argument. Friendly discussion.

    March 14, 2013

  • stells d.

    Excellent, thought provoking.

    March 13, 2013

  • James

    I wonder if it was really my choice to come to this event, or if I was forced indirectly by the circumstances of my life. Maybe by the end of this evening I'll know either way!

    March 13, 2013

  • madison

    Sadly still ill so will have to give this a miss.
    Look forward to the next one.

    March 13, 2013

  • Sanch

    Due to university commitments I will be coming late again!

    March 13, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Format for tonight: Dean will make his presentation in the first part of the evening, which will be about 45 minutes. We'll take a short break then get into the Q&A. For those CLHG people who haven't been to a LAAG event before it will be a friendly relaxed atmosphere and we hope it will be fun too!

    March 13, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      You may wish to make notes for the Q&A in which case bring a pen and paper!

      1 · March 13, 2013

  • David M.

    Shame but I'll be up at my sisters. Sounds interesting though.

    March 13, 2013

  • Steve I.

    Can't make it-off to Stratford (on Thames)

    March 12, 2013

  • Kieron

    So as not to distort the numbers, I have registered to go on the LAAG site only.

    March 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I don't want to be in this group any more

    March 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Unfortunately, this clashes with another engagement.

    March 12, 2013

  • Paul N.

    sorry very busy work week!

    March 11, 2013

  • John D.

    unfortunately not able to attend - hope it goes well

    March 7, 2013

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