I have been reading a lot about free will and the most recent neuroscience experiments in that field. However, one way question troubles me to which I have never been able to find any study.

We know that neurons fire when depolarization occurs, phenomenon that we call action potential.

Depolarization occurs following a stimulus. Stimuli mostly come from chemical synapses, sensory neurons or pacemaker potentials.

In a deterministic view of the brain, one that does not involve free will (in the common sense of the term), stimuli coming from chemical synapses would always be explainable. By explainable, I mean that they could be predicted based on the electrochemical state of synapses before giving rise to them. For the purpose of my thinking, I won't refer to sensory neurons nor pacemaker potentials as for the first ones the origin of the stimuli is deterministic since caused by an external factor (e.g.: a sound or a touch) and in the second the stimuli were initially programmed at cell level to happen at a certain rate, so deterministic as well.

In light of the above, if free will does exist (in the sense that it can create indeterministic behaviours and that those indeterministic behaviours are not generated randomly by let's say quantum activity within neurons but rather by a true free will), we should, I guess observe stimuli occurring without any underlying causes. That's to say, either:

  • Internal stimuli coming from synapses that could not be explained by the electrochemical state of the synapses before giving rise to the stimuli; or

  • Changes in the electrochemical state of the synapses that could not be explained by their initial state.

Is my reasoning flawed?

Are any of you aware of any research about that?

Thanks for reading.

  • $\begingroup$ I would close this has being purely philosophical - or perhaps quantum mechanical. In the meantime, I recommend "Freewill" by Rush. $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2021 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ Not really philosophical as I'm asking whether any scientific research has been, is going to or will be done to test the observations I mentioned in the last part of my message. $\endgroup$
    – kfug
    Jan 20, 2021 at 16:15
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  • $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because it is a question of Philosophy. Moving determinism from quantum mechanics, electrons, etc to synapses does not change the purely philosophical free will question in any way. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 21, 2021 at 0:48


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