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The Neural Basis of Free Will: Criterial Causation (English Edition)
  

The Neural Basis of Free Will: Criterial Causation (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Peter Ulric Tse

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Présentation de l'éditeur

A neuroscientific perspective on the mind–body problem that focuses on how the brain actually accomplishes mental causation.

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  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2131 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 472 pages
  • Editeur : The MIT Press (22 février 2013)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00CECG35S
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Amazon.com: 4.9 étoiles sur 5  9 commentaires
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 You will think differently about neural/mental causation after this 18 mars 2013
Par Thomas Zweifel - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
This is an original and refreshing, indeed groundbreaking argument in favor of the existence of free will by a Dartmouth (Harvard PhD) neuroscientist made from a physicalist perspective. Tse argues first that most neuroscientists have missed half the story concerning the neural code because they have been too focused on neural spiking, as if the neural code were solely a spike rate code or some other spike timing code. He argues that the missing piece of the neural code puzzle is that neurons can also change the weights on each others' synapses without necessarily triggering firing, and that this "rapid synaptic resetting" also amounts to a kind of transmission of information between neurons. With this new way of thinking about the neural code as his foundation, he confronts Galen Strawson's 'basic argument' against free will, and Jaegwon Kim's argument against the possibility of mental causation, both of which are premised on the logical impossibility of self-causation. Rapid synaptic resetting gets around the problem of self-causation because present mental events (that are realized in present neuronal events) do not change their present neuronal basis, but instead change the criterial parameters, via rapid synaptic resetting, that must be met by possible future mental events that will be realized in possible future neuronal events. Even if this 'criterial causation' now alters the physical basis of possible mental events that will occur a couple of milliseconds in the future, this physical mechanism is not circularly self-causal.

Tse grants that this process is consistent with compatibilist or incompatibilist stances on free will, but he argues in favor of an incompatibilist stance because random events in the synapse, such as the behavior of neurotransmitters or single ions blocking certain key receptors, can be amplified to a level of spike timing randomness. This means that rapidly reset physical and informational criteria for firing can be met in a way that is neither determined nor wholly random in its outcome, because randomness is harnessed, filtered or selected by the conditions in place that can make a neuron fire. This idea offers a middle path between determinism, where things had to turn out as they did, and randomness. Just as DNA provided a physical mechanism for Darwinian evolution, rapid synaptic resetting offers a physical mechanism for the two-stage incompatibilism argued for by William James over a century ago.

Tse develops his basic idea using the metaphor of train tracks. If a train has to go from one city to another far away, train track switches have to be altered before the train passes over them, so that the train goes to its correct destination. If the set of all tracks is like the brain, then the train track switches are like changeable synaptic weights, and the trains are analogous to what he calls 'burst packets' that traverse 'neuronal epicircuits' along 'burst packet tracks.' He develops this idea into a new account of attention as 'binding by bursting' and extends the idea to account for consciousness in the last chapter.

This is a deep and thought-provoking work of impressive scholarship, with a comprehensive bibliography and a very clear and useful glossary. This well-written book will introduce truly new ways of thinking into old debates on mental causation, free will, attention, consciousness and the neural code. Many neuroscientists from Benjamin Libet to Dan Wegner and Michael Gazzaniga, have argued that free will is an illusion. We now have a strong voice ably defending the opposite position and backing up his positions with extensively cited neuroscientific data and cogent logical arguments.
19 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A major conceptual breakthrough in both neuroscience and the philosophy of mind 14 avril 2013
Par Evan S. Pearl - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
It is not everyday that a neuroscientist/philosopher publishes a new way to think about the neural code that has as its consequence a solution to the ancient problem of free will and the related problem of how mental events can be causal of physical events. I regard Tse's move as paradigm-shifting, a milestone in the history of ideas related to the mind-body problem. The central move is the idea that neurons very rapidly recode each others' informational parameters or criteria that have to be met in order for future neuronal firing to be triggered. Free will on Tse's account is all about the future, even if the future is as soon as the next action potential coming down the axon of presynaptic neurons. This is an account of neuronal and mental causation on the millisecond timescale realized in neurons changing each others' synaptic weights that effectively sculpts new 'epicircuits' on the fly, so that a neuron that was driven by information type 1 at time 1 is driven by different information type 2 at time 2.

Tse begins by arguing that neurons realize a special kind of physically realized informational causation that he calls `criterial causation.' He argues that prebiological causation, of the sort described by physics and the other physical sciences, emphasizes causation via the amplitude and frequency attributes of energy, but that with the advent of biological systems, the phase of energy became causal in nature. This was because of the evolution of physical systems that became sensitive to spatiotemporal patterns in input, such as coincidences among input. He goes into great detail about one kind of receptor, the NMDA receptor, that he argues plays an especially important role in volitional mental processes, including attentional and conscious processing. This molecular device requires several facts to be simultaneously true before it opens to allow calcium ions to enter and depolarize a postsynaptic neuron. Neurons also allow the phase of energy to become causal because they too function as coincidence detectors, albeit at a much higher level than the coincidence detection of an NMDA receptor. All in all, the fact that physical systems convert spatiotemporal phase or pattern relationships in energetic inputs, particularly coincidence detection, into concrete physical outputs such as action potentials or the opening of an ion channel, means that for the first time in Nature, with the advent of life, a 'new kind of physical causation' came into being, what he calls `phase causation' or `criterial causation.' This move is important enough because it shows how spatiotemporal patterns or phase in energy could become causal. But when combined with the deep insight that the neural code is not just a spike code, but a rapid synaptic reweighting code, it is revolutionary because it means that neurons do not only realize present information in their activity, they are encoding the parameters of possible future mental events, themselves realized in and triggered by the occurrence of synaptic level and neuron level coincidences.

Tse's arguments will I suspect be viewed as a breakthrough in our understanding not only of the neural code, but also of mental causation and that special case, voluntary mental causation or free will. If the central argument against free will has been that a mental event cannot change its present neural basis, Tse gets around this with agility by having mental events realized in current neural events change not their own neural basis, but the possible neural basis of FUTURE mental events. This is such an important and novel move that history may look back on it as a big part of the solution, at the level of physical mechanism, to the free will problem, not only as a new way of thinking about the neural code! Wow. There were pages in this book that quite simply blew my mind, and I have been studying these issues for many years.

Many scientists have been writing books for laymen that are so `popularized' as to be dumbed down. More often than not they are full of chummy anecdotes and opinions. This might sell books to the masses, but it is not necessarily a strategy for depth of argument. Tse's book in contrast is a thoroughly intellectual work. Unlike so many recent polemical yet breezy works against the possibility of free will, like Sam Harris' book or Michael Gazzaniga's recent book, Tse comes to the opposite conclusion, namely that free will is real. He then shows what its fundamental physical mechanism is: rapid synaptic reweighting. His work far exceeds those of his competitors because he frames his argument in a manner that is thorough, careful, insightful, creative, deep and broad, with an eye to backing claims up with facts and citations. This is not a book for intellectual lightweights, even though he tries to make his ideas as accessible as possible with abstracts, cross-referencing in an unusual and useful style, with extensive references, endnotes and indexes (he indexes every cited author and every idea to individual paragraphs). In fact, the book is basically only 230 pages long because half the book is references, indices and endnotes. It is a work of great intellectual ambition and one that holds back no punches. Even though he is in neuroscience, he has no fear of going after some of the central arguments of some of the biggest names among living philosophers, including Jaegwon Kim, Galen Strawson and Saul Kripke. I imagine philosophers who dismiss free will, such as perhaps these, will attempt to demolish his arguments, but he has laid out such a strong and impressive case that it will be interesting to see how these ideas and yet-to-appear criticisms of them will develop over the coming years. There is no question that he is introducing fresh, new, bold and often brilliant arguments into old, stale quarters. If, as Jaegwon Kim has argued, the philosophy of mind is at an impasse concerning the physical basis of mental causation, this book might break the impasse. He is a rare neuroscientist who gives novel philosophical arguments that simultaneously take philosophy of mind seriously, while at the same time dismantling some of its longest-standing arguments. Old guard philosophers may not like it, but they will have to deal with his insights, particularly the notion of the neural code as a code that effectively parameterizes future mental and neuronal activity.

You might think that Tse would spend a lot of time on the famous Libet experiments, but he largely dismisses them as irrelevant to the issue of free will. Tse spends the majority of his time focusing on one particular kind of volitional mental act, and that is volitional attentional allocation and tracking. It does not become completely clear until the final chapter, chapter 10, why he thinks this is the paradigmatic volitional act moreso than the kinds of motor acts explored in Libet's or Wegner's experiments. In fact, I would recommend that most readers interested in consciousness and its neural basis read chapter 10 before reading chapters 4 and 5. Otherwise these central chapters might get one lost in thickets of information about NMDA receptors and neural bursting without the context afforded by an understanding of where he is heading with this information. A good order might be to start out reading chapter 1-3, 10, 4-6, appendices 1 and 2 followed by 7, 8, 9 and 10 again. In the end, he ties his new understanding of the neural code as rapid synaptic reweighting as well as his new arguments concerning mental causation and free will with an entirely new theory of the neural basis of attention and consciousness! He calls it the `burst packet theory of attention and consciousness' and actually opens the book with a list of falsifiable claims made by that theory. The central idea is that attention does not bind features per se, what it does is shift circuitry into a bursty mode across the whole cortical and perhaps subcortical hierarchy, so that attended regions receive complete information processing all the way up to a level of recognition via burst packets that jump from neuron to neuron in an information-processing circuit. This idea alone is a potentially important contribution to neuroscience. But even if the particulars of his new view of the neural basis of attention turn out to be incorrect, the general idea of rooting the neural code and mental causation in the resetting of the informational parameters that must be met by future, partially random neural activity and mental activity realized in that neural activity is so beautiful, simple, new and elegant, that one feels that there must be something deeply true about it.

To sum up, this is a creative and intellectual triumph of insight and understanding. It pushes the boundaries of virtually all aspects of those fields concerned with the mind-body problem. Every serious student of the mind-body problem, the neural basis of consciousness and attention, free will and mental causation will want to read this book.
12 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 This book has literally set me free. 14 août 2013
Par Stephen Macknik - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
This review originally was posted in my blog at [...]

What is free will, and how can it be generated by a neural circuit? The problem may seem, at first, like a fairly trivial issue. It seems evident to each of us that we wield free will. It feels like the world is our oyster--that with our wit and our will power we can overcome adversity. But the problem is actually deep, and it even precedes science in that it's fundamental to religion as well. If God is perfect and knows all our fates, the Jesuit quandary goes, then the future is known, at least to Him, and therefore how can there be free will since every decision for the entire expanse of eternity has been laid out, unchangeable? There can be no real decisions, if true, no matter how free they seem. No matter how random or how spur of the moment any given decision was made, God knew you were going to do that.

The scientific version of the same quandary is not too different. Laplace imagined a similar scenario based solely on a universe of particles. Think of the universe as a billiards table, and all the particles in the universe so many billiards balls. If you could know all of the vectors of all the balls on the table, and all of the physical rules by which balls interact with each other--and with the table itself--you could predict any future position for the balls on the table. All possible interactions could be simulated forward to any future point in time. But even in a billiards table (or other closed system, like, say, the universe) where you don't know every vector exactly, this line of thought suggests that although you cannot to predict the future accurately, you nevertheless know that future is predictable. That everything in such a universe is fated to happen.

If our universe is deterministic in this way there can be no free will because you were destined to make that same decision--every single one of your decisions--from the very moment of the big bang. It's not that you don't make decisions: you do. But you'll make them the same exact way in two different universes that have identical big bangs. It means that the universe conspired from its very inception to bring you and your significant other together. It's quite romantic, actually, so long as you've been fortunate enough to have a nice life. But if not, you're truly screwed, and the universe has been literally plotting your demise for the last 14 billion years.

For some physicists, these issues are not really issues at all because the universe, they claim, is not deterministic. That is to say, quantum level effects on particles are truly random. Therefore, the same big bang, if it occurred twice in two different universes made up of exactly the same particles having identical initial vectors would result nevertheless in different futures, because quantum level random effects change things up. Other physicists, including Stephen Hawking, poo-poo the quantum gambit, instead concluding that quantum effects may randomize particle vectors a bit at a low level, but only on such a minute scale that irrelevant to human life, and that the universe is, for all intents and purposes, deterministic. That rings true with me--quantum mechanics predicts that everything is possible with varying levels of probability, but that means that the way things are would probably happen again and again, given the same big bang and the same universe of particles, in each iteration.

So the universe is either deterministic or non-deterministic, and your free will to choose the red versus the green sauce for your burrito hangs in the balance. First, why would there be a problem with free will? A blade of grass rotates to follow the sun throughout the day in a process known as heliotropism. But does it intend to follow the sun? No, it's just a chemical reaction, its basis is known, and it's straightforward to explain. To be clear, I reject the idea that the blade of grade is conscious at some low level. That's silly. Ok, now, what about if you take a neuron--a brain cell--and stick it in a dish with all the nutrients it needs, then spritz neurotransmitter on it. It responds with a vigorous burst. Did it intend to burst? "Well, ah, noooo, I guess not", you might say, with some discomfort, as you realize that your brainpan is merely a dish that provides all the nutrients your brain needs, and the neurotransmitters on each neuron are all provided from other neurons in the same dish.

Making your will even less free, research in John-Dylan Haynes's lab at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, Germany has shown that an upcoming decision being made by human volunteers can be predicted from brain scanning data, at levels better than chance, up to 10 seconds before the volunteers know what they themselves are going to decide. So unconscious processes are thus actually in control your decision making long before you even know you're making a decision. Whoa!

So that's it, we're done, there is no free will, right? The universe can't sustain it, your brain has made up its mind before you have, and you have merely experienced the illusion that you've been in control since the moment you learned to crawl and discovered the feeling of agency.

Not so fast. Enter Dartmouth neuroscientist Peter Tse, who has found a middle ground in his new book "The Neural Correlates of Free Will: Critical Causation" (MIT Press). Tse has thought through this enormous problem and realized something important that brings free will back to the realm of the living. Remember that determinism is an unavoidable fact of the universe at the macroscopic but not the quantum level. Well what if the macroscopic universe is not deterministic because the brain is designed to amplify quantum level particle effects to the macroscopic level through the action of specialized neuronal channels that make decisions potentially truly stochastic?

There are chemical receptors on most neurons that receive neurotransmitters (globs of chemicals secreted by other neurons), that then respond by opening ion channels, causing neurons to create neutral impulses (aka: macroscopic real world events normal people call "brain activity", or "thought"). Well, in a deterministic universe... so what? You could have predicted every idea I've ever had, before my birth, if had enough data about the universe. Right? Tse says no, because some chemical receptors, called NMDA receptors, are actually blocked by a single atom of magnesium, that must first be released before ions can flow to cause brain activity. Because macroscopic brain activity is therefore dependent on the position of a single atom, which is itself a quantum-level creature, it means that these neurons amplify the quantum level activity of the magnesium atom to the level of neural circuit behavior and real life. Thus our behavior is indeed subject to quantum effects and the universe cannot be deterministic.

Note that the brain works as a coincidence detection machine at the neuronal, dendritic and receptor level, and that quantum level randomness has its effects by randomizing spike timing, and therefore this determines what will count as a coincidence. Also, a key idea of the book is that certain brain circuits associated with planning can change synaptic weights extremely rapidly, so that neurons can respond differently to same inputs, even within a short period of time based on the rapid synaptic weight changes brought about by quantum level effects. This can change the information that neurons are responsive too, so that the neural code becomes not just a spike code, but a synaptic weight code. For example, executive circuits might set the criterion that memory circuits should recall a politician. Margaret Thatcher might come to mind, because she meets that criterion. But from the exact same initial conditions, Obama might also have come to mind. Which came to mind was a matter of chance. This is not deterministic, because the outcome could have turned out otherwise. But it is also not random, because the outcome had to be a politician.

I love Tse's book. It has literally set me free. It explains these ideas in full glory, in exquisite detail, and much better than I can summarize here.
17 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Refreshing and Innovative, a Far Cry from Semantic Philosophy 8 avril 2013
Par Let's Compare Options Preptorial - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
This book is a gold mind for readers who love science but get quickly bored with the tail chasing semantics of philosophy, at least the kind that doesn't go beyond neologistic words circling each other. There are philosophers that arrogantly claim that the "free will" issue was "solved" decades ago, and that, simply, if you can't choose your sperm and ovum, you don't have free will. Synaptically, before this volume, it was hard to refute the "domino," and frankly mechanistic flows of neuronal computation that strongly argue against choice in today's spike rate models.

Part of the problem with those views is the limited amount of insight it takes to build huge and impressive network models. Starting with only stimulus-response, then graduating to spike rates and timing, researchers can build amazing, predictively accurate dynamical time series models of spike flows with very deep differential equations, that "look" like we've solved many of the spike etiology issues. Those magnificent and complex models can lull us into forgetting that they are based on very limited aspects of neural flow.

Tse pulls that whole structure down with a deft hand! By expanding the point of view beyond bursting to spike "set ups" he gives us a breathtaking new view of how we can "simulate" whole worlds of choice at the atomic level long before we "commit" to a choice-- or before a spike is initiated. The scholarly and fascinating new doors he opens, from the superpositionality of Qualia to attention and consciousness themselves, fire off numerous lightbulbs on each page that "feel" right in the brain. Our ability to "sim" the decision before deciding with valences in connections ahead of choice puts an entirely new light on "my brain made me do it" arguments against choice.

This book has ONE HUNDRED PAGES (not a typo) of references! There are 10 pages alone used just to prove his point that all the current models of neuronal computation have important gaps. The use of abstracts, glossaries, inline citations and other tools makes this text a truly unique combination of page turning reading, innovative new insights, cutting edge research, all on a foundation of an amazing breadth of documentation. I challenge any reader to find a book today that superimposes figurative integration in working memory buffers with Kantian noumenal object definitions! It's like an object programmer suddenly figured out how "attention" is the programmed processing of object boundaries, by looking at how the underlying code is combining streams of patterns.

I can't imagine a thoughtful science lover, philosopher, neurologist, psychologist or even physicist / engineer that wouldn't marvel at the accomplishments in this volume. I'm a friend of Joaquin Fuster, and even his book length references and citations can't rival Tse's thoroughness. It sometimes seems that you have to choose today between boring catalogs of current research and innovation. This wonderful volume integrates both. If the brain is truly a relevance machine, the crowning achievement of this book is demonstrating that the basic function of such a machine-- prioritization -- can be demonstrably volitional, regardless of the urgency of somatic signals and needs. This is a volume you can tell your friends about with no regrets, because regardless of their take on free will, they will still find it amazing!

Library Picks reviews only for the benefit of Amazon shoppers and has nothing to do with Amazon, the authors, manufacturers or publishers of the items we review. We always buy the items we review for the sake of objectivity, and although we search for gems, are not shy about trashing an item if it's a waste of time or money for Amazon shoppers. If the reviewer identifies herself, her job or her field, it is only as a point of reference to help you gauge the background and any biases.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Substantial and clear 21 juin 2013
Par W. Cheung - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
The author's position is: "Free will is constrained. We are not utterly free to choose the physical grounds of making a present choice. But our brains can make choices that are neither predetermined nor purely random, which are in part determined by previous decisions of our nervous system" (page 143). Most of the book is therefore devoted on how neurons, using specific receptors (in particular NMDA receptors), accomplish this through criterial causation, which essentially means "a succession of criterial assessments of physically realized informational input that transforms, completes, and manipulates that information" (page 292). It also provides evidence that certain mental processes cannot take place without consciousness and therefore consciousness cannot be just an epiphenomenon (Ch. 10). This concept is further developed to suggest that qualia is needed in free will. Many other topics are covered, such as binding and attention. Some background knowledge on neuroscience, quantum physics and philosophy is required. A must read for those who are genuinely interested in this most fascinating topic.
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