Dr. Susan Blackmore - "Free Will - Can We Live Without The Illusion?"

10:00 - Announcements

10: 15 - Fun and Frivolity

10:30 "Free Will – Can we live without the illusion?"

Dr. Susan Blackmore

The more we learn about the neuroscience of self, volition, and consciousness, the less plausible becomes the traditional idea of free will. Libet’s experiments on the timing of voluntary actions throw free will into doubt; the neuroscience of volition reveals the brain areas responsible for decision-making and self-control; and research by Wegner shows how the feeling of having done something ourselves comes down to attributions we make after the fact on the basis of sequence, similarity and timing.

So if our intuitions are not to be trusted, how should we live our lives?

Despite the mounting evidence, many philosophers and psychologists still believe in free will. Others claim that even if there is no free will we still have to live ‘as if’ there is. Otherwise, they claim, terrible disasters will befall us – a loss of morality, the breakdown of our legal systems and even of society itself. I think they are wrong, and indeed that we would be better off not to delude ourselves. In any case, I am not prepared to live a lie. I will discuss the challenges of striving to throw off the illusion of conscious will. 

This event will be held at DuVal auditorium and is sponsored by FreeThought Arizona.

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  • Lew S.

    Oh Well....I am married to a Japanese Zen Buddhist Master, from Tokyo, Japan, and just happen want to spread love & light as any Zen Meditation practitioner would do...Too much HATE, Tara...how about a lot more LOVE & COMPASSION for everyone.
    Lew & Sachiko Suzuki

    2 · May 9, 2014

    • Tara C.

      Yeah? Tell that to the slaves.

      May 10, 2014

  • Tara C.

    Warning to Women: Free Thought Arizona? NO WAY! It's just more men trying to shut us up,
    Message to Men: You have no idea how much we women hate you.

    May 10, 2014

  • Charles C.

    Clarification: the friend I brought to the event didn't like the Fry's VIP Card idea. I have a VIP card that's so old the mag-strip is worn off, and I thought it was a very clever idea. So it's not an attack on FTA, just an observation that for some folks, it was a tipoff that maybe FTA isn't "hip" in an old fashioned hippie sense. But what did you think about my critique of the speaker? You might need to read the rest of the article. And thanks for noting that the site is very punk. I hardly tried.

    May 5, 2014

    • Jim N.

      I read your article and saved it to my documents for future reference. This is not a good forum to have a lengthy discussion but I found your piece interesting. There are Freethought members who are more knowledgeable on human consciousness but I have an interest in it. I think Susan Blackmore presented a hypothesis but I didn't hear enough supporting evidence for her position to consider it a theory. I think the neuroscientist posed some serious questions afterward. You probably would have been interested in Freethought's Jan program presented by Dr. Chris Impey on his program working with the Dalai Lama teaching his monks about current knowledge on cosmology. It is still available on the website. Freethought presents a wide range of speakers and membership viewpoints. We are Freethinkers. I do think Tara got very uncivil with her fascist and nihilism, etc comments.

      1 · May 7, 2014

    • Tara C.

      I wasn't uncivil. I didn't say anything different than what Charles said, but because he's a man, you didn't accuse him. You men are used to accusing women, because you have the millennia-long patriarchal privilege of putting women in their place. You can't stand it when a woman knows more than you do about a subject. And this subject is my specialty. So fuck off!

      May 9, 2014

  • Charles C.

    May 3, 2014

    • Jim N.

      It is very interesting that you berated Freethought AZ in your very PunkLawyer website for becoming one of 1529 organizations in Arizona that are participating in Fry's Community rewards program. I saw evidence that you berated any of the 10's of churches and church schools participating.

      May 5, 2014

    • Jim N.

      A correction and a url. I saw "no evidence" and the info can be found on

      May 5, 2014

  • Tara C.

    You deleted my posts?!!!

    April 29, 2014

    • Don L.

      Yes, I did. They were Ad Hominem attacks on the speaker and the commentators. Keep it civil.

      1 · April 30, 2014

    • Tara C.

      Bullshit. You're a censor, duly noted Mr. Lacey.

      May 4, 2014

  • Tara C.

    An even more horrible man than Nietzsche, who was the man who invented the term "thought experiment," the same term used by Ms. Blackmore to characterize her transport to Kabul, was Aleister Crowley, who took Nietzsche's statement that "Nothing is true, all is permitted" and turned it into "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." That is, if you're one of the elite. Like Nietzsche, Crowley liked to plumb the depths of nihilism:

    000. NOTHING ONLY EXISTS, AND IS ALL THINGS.
    00. THERE IS NO LIMIT.
    0. THE SUM OF ALL IS BOUNDLESS LIGHT.
    Break down the fortress of thine Individual Self, that thy truth may spring free from the ruins!
    -- The Heart of the Master

    Ms. Blackmore reminds me of a mixture between Aleister Crowley and the Dalai Lama, who said:

    My own role? Nothing. Zero ... So one day, if the Dalai Lama becomes a mass murderer, he will become the most deadly of mass murderers. [Laughs]
    -- Amitabha Pal

    Have we nothing better to do than take ourselves apart?

    April 29, 2014

  • Tony K.

    Based on the questions that were asked, I have a feeling Susan Blackmore was less than convincing to many people in the audience. I don't feel it was a waste of time as I did choose ;o) to attend and enjoyed hearing a challenge to my ideas of self and consciousness. I thought the views expressed by the neuroscientist were especially on target. Blackmore seemed to be addressing the subconscious self with her concepts of memes, genes, and environment dictating our behavior. Rational human beings are influenced by these, but we also have the ability NOT to let them rule our lives. I thought Blackmore was describing more what happens in our dreams than in our real lives. As for your question: As we get rid of God, are we also going to get rid of the thinking behind the 18th century enlightenment, behind the founding of America, that all men and women have "natural" rights?

    I'm not sure what "God" has to do with any of these. I thought all these were efforts to break free of God.

    April 28, 2014

  • Don L.

    Enjoyed the lecture.

    April 27, 2014

  • Lew S.

    Super Fine Speaker -- What a Mind!

    April 27, 2014

  • Jim N.

    Susan was definitely a rational polemicist.

    April 27, 2014

  • John T.

    I cannot echo Jerry's comment strongly enough. Anyone who has read Blackmore's work will have found it compelling. While she does not convince everyone, she will always make them think.

    April 6, 2014

  • Jerry K.

    We are so fortunate to have Dr. Susan Blackmore to talk to our group. The free will discussion is always enlightening and thought provoking. This is a don't miss discussion.

    1 · April 6, 2014

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