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The Neural Basis of Free Will: Criterial Causation (MIT Press) (English Edition) Format Kindle
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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.
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