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July 5, 2022 48 min

Life is full of decisions, big and small.  What to eat for breakfast, what to wear to work, who to ask for advice, where to send your kids to school.  But are any of these decisions truly our own? A growing movement of psychologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists believe that these decisions may feel like a tossup, but in reality are predetermined, merely the firing of neural pathways forged over time that lead to predictable conclusions. Despite how we feel, free will is an illusion. Supporters of this deterministic worldview argue that our choices are no more under our own control than our own biology. The myriad decisions we make over the course of our lives emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. But detractors of this worldview argue that free will and the modern understanding of our brains is not mutually exclusive.  They argue that free will exists on a higher order beyond our physical selves, and cannot be reduced to our mere biology. Much of human thought and action cannot be explained at the physical level, but that renders it no less real. Today we ask the question, do we make our choices, or do our choices make us?

Arguing for the motion is Christian List, Professor of philosophy and decision theory at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, co-director of the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, and author of Why Free Will Exists.

Arguing against the motion is Gregg Caruso, Professor of philosophy at SUNY Corning, Visiting Fellow at the New College of the Humanities, and author of Just Deserts: Debating Free Will.

Christian List: “Free will is the capacity to choose and control our own actions, and common sense suggests that we humans have this capacity”.

Gregg Caruso: “Who we are, and what we do is ultimately the result of factors beyond our control”.

Sources: Big Think, Closer to Truth

The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.  

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This podcast is a project of the Munk Debates, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to fostering civil and substantive public dialogue - https://munkdebates.com/

The Munk Debates podcast is produced by Antica, Canada’s largest private audio production company - https://www.anticaproductions.com/

Executive Producer: Stuart Coxe, CEO Antica Productions

Senior Producer: Jacob Lewis

Editor: Kieran Lynch

Associate Producer: Abhi Raheja

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