LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
To the Editors:
I have trouble with the conclusions many have drawn from Benjamin
Libet’s 1983 research, which was cited in "Free Will and
Free Won't" by Sukhvinder Obhi and Patrick Haggard
(July-August). As the authors state, "These experiments reveal
that the chain of causation going from our intentions to our actions
is not in the intuitive direction."
Instead, I would argue that the experiments show that it is the
perception of our intention that is "off,"
because it is the timing of perception of intention that is
measured, not the timing of intention itself. These are not
necessarily the same!
All that is necessary is to suppose that there is an "intention
mechanism" that starts at (or before) the readiness potential,
and that the start of the intention mechanism is not immediately
perceived. There would be a delay before the intention mechanism is
perceived, just as there is a delay for the accompanying action.
Such a "perceived-later" mechanism is consistent with
current concepts of the brain as complex and distributed—with
many things happening at once and only some of them being perceived,
imperfectly and with a delay. The work of Ohbi and Haggard deals
with such perceptions and delays. It was not necessary to introduce
Libet's conclusions in the description of his experiments.
John W. Bremer
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands