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Who's in Charge: Free will and the science of the brain MICHAEL S GAZZANIGA

  • Feb 27, 2013 · 6:30 PM
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The "father of cognitive neuroscience" makes a powerful and provocative argument against today's common wisdom that our lives are wholly determined by physical processes we cannot control"--

Publisher's Weekly Review:

"Are our actions determined solely by physical processes, or is the mind its own master? This age-old philosophical conundrum gets a terrific, if ultimately indecisive, analysis in this engrossing study of the mechanics of thought. Gazzaniga (Human: The Science Behind What Makes Your Brain Unique), a leading cognitive neuroscientist, draws on cutting-edge research, including his fascinating experiments with "split-brain" patients, to diagram the Rube Goldberg apparatus inside our skulls. Beneath our illusion of an in-control self, he contends, thousands of chaotically interacting neural modules governing motion, senses, and language unconsciously make decisions long before we consciously register them; the closest thing to a self is a brain module called "the interpreter," which spins a retrospective story line to rationalize whatever the nonconscious brain did. (Brain injuries can make the interpreter tragicomically muddled, leading patients to claim that their hand doesn't belong to them or that their relatives are imposters.) The author's reconciliation of that deterministic model with the idea of free will is less successful, requiring "a unique language, which has yet to be developed"; until then, we can only invoke muzzy notions from complexity theory. Though he doesn't quite capture the ghost, Gazzaniga does give a lucid, stimulating primer on the machine that generates it. B&w illus. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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  • Carmelo

    Thoughtful and varied points of view. Respectful and friendly discourse.

    February 27, 2013

  • Anne

    Interesting topic, thoughtful and intelligent comments, good moderation and nice people attending. Glad I went. Thank you to the moderators (Rose and ?) for making this a positive experience.

    February 27, 2013

  • Sonja

    Still out of commission - sorry to miss out!

    February 27, 2013

  • Carol

    Sorry for the late notice but I worked from home because of the weather and won't be downtown.

    February 27, 2013

  • Wayne S.

    Here's an interesting poem to make you contemplate prior to our discussion.
    The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost poem with text .

    February 27, 2013

  • RK

    Thanks, Nicolas. I find I get more out of the discussion if I've read the book, but numerous people who attend haven't and mainly listen -- there's no pressure to speak. On another note -- I found this interesting, if you haven't heard a determinist lately

    February 27, 2013

  • Laurie

    Sorry but I won't be there.

    February 26, 2013

  • Nicolas D.

    Sorry RK: I will waste your time and space since I never had a chance to read the book. The Public Library just delivered it to me two days ago. Not enough time. Please enjoy the book discussion - Nicolas

    February 26, 2013

  • Wayne S.

    I'm not responsible for posting this. :)

    February 26, 2013

  • Lydia B.

    I'm very sorry but the weather will preclude my coming. i would like to participate in this group when weather improves.

    February 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    cant see the location yet, just joining

    February 24, 2013

  • Mike W

    Sorry, now have to work

    February 24, 2013

  • Downtown D.

    Be sure to read Sam Harris's recent (very short) book on this subject -- *and* be sure to go online and read the harsh critiques, too. Dennett, of course, has written extensively on it, too. Great subject!

    February 22, 2013

  • Downtown D.

    Prob'y can't make it this time, but it's a great topic -- have fun!

    February 22, 2013

  • Karen

    so looking forward to this discussion!

    February 21, 2013

  • RK

    "Is the brain really necessary?" The provocative title is meant to be dramatic, but this work "does show that the brain can work in conditions we would have thought impossible." Also, a story, "They're made of meat", about some prejudiced visitors, makes us ponder what would the (dualist?) alternative look like

    February 20, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    This is a very interesting topic and I anticipate a lively discussion. Unfortunately I won't be partaking, as I have other commitments on Wednesdays.

    February 19, 2013

  • giovanni m.

    My limited understanding of this book is that there is no determinism at a deeper level. Despite all the scans, the results are probablistic concerning what part if the brain does what. Some things seem hard wired but not all. At least the science can't prove it for now. The Buddhist have view of no real self because we are integrated to the whole. I do not think this book accepts that view at all. I like the buddhist view of meditation as awareness of the moment. The analogy of a glass with water and sand. The only way to see through the glass is keep still so that the sand sinks to the bottom. This is fine but egoless self to me is negation of our basic nature. The author speaks of this in the book. His studies in neuroscience do not support this view. He makes no conclusive statements but.....

    February 13, 2013

  • Dr. Brian H. G.

    Buddhism has already explored these issues and indeed,I beleive that Freud or anyone that talks of "the self" has borrowed from Buddhism--and example is "The Myth of Freedom by Chogyam Trungpa--a major thrust of Buddhism is that we cannot control but through meditative acceptance we can prevent the wildness and primitiveness of following overly impulsive feeling and thinking.

    For example, a post Freudian, Bergler (did he steal?) discovered our innate masochism by which we constantly feel "refused" by others, bv situations--or by anything which lies outside of our demands on life which often cant be fulfilled (you CAnt always get what you want--the rolliing stones So Berglerian therapy involves learning not to be provoked by everyday situations which offer us plenty of ways to feel rejected--thus it is a kind of calming oneself down numerous times a day by realizing that we constantly misinterpret reality in order to feel defeated--in this way we can engage in megalomania.

    February 12, 2013

  • RHONA S.

    In California till Mid March

    February 3, 2013

  • Andrei

    European scientists try to simulate a complete human brain with a super computer: cool but meaningless video at

    Can they hope to study mental states (higher-level concept) by simulating a gazillion neurons (lower-level concept)? This would seem to contradict Gazzaniga's book.

    January 29, 2013

  • Wayne S.

    Does deciding between yes and no, refute determinism? Philosopher John Searle offers some good arguments in favour of volition.

    November 30, 2012

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