Free Will and Necker's Cube: Reason, Language and Top-Down Control in cognitive neuroscience

Philosophy 87 (01):29-50 (2012)
The debates about human free will are traditionally the concern of metaphysics but neuroscientists have recently entered the field arguing that acts of the will are determined by brain events themselves causal products of other events. We examine that claim through the example of free or voluntary switch of perception in relation to the Necker cube. When I am asked to see the cube in one way, I decide whether I will follow the command (or do as I am asked) using skills that reason and language give to me and change my brain states accordingly. The voluntary shift of perspective in seeing the Necker cube this way or that exemplifies the top-down control exercised by a human being on the basis of the role of language and meaning in their activity. It also indicates the lived story that is at the centre of each human consciousness. In the third part of this essay, three arguments are used to undermine metaphysical objections to the very idea of top-down self control
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