Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain

Front Cover
HarperCollins, Nov 15, 2011 - Science - 272 pages

The father of cognitive neuroscience and author of Human offers a provocative argument against the common belief that our lives are wholly determined by physical processes and we are therefore not responsible for our actions

A powerful orthodoxy in the study of the brain has taken hold in recent years: Since physical laws govern the physical world and our own brains are part of that world, physical laws therefore govern our behavior and even our conscious selves. Free will is meaningless, goes the mantra; we live in a “determined” world.

Not so, argues the renowned neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga in this thoughtful, provocative book based on his Gifford Lectures——one of the foremost lecture series in the world dealing with religion, science, and philosophy. Who’s in Charge? proposes that the mind, which is somehow generated by the physical processes of the brain, “constrains” the brain just as cars are constrained by the traffic they create. Writing with what Steven Pinker has called “his trademark wit and lack of pretension,” Gazzaniga shows how determinism immeasurably weakens our views of human responsibility; it allows a murderer to argue, in effect, “It wasn’t me who did it——it was my brain.” Gazzaniga convincingly argues that even given the latest insights into the physical mechanisms of the mind, there is an undeniable human reality: We are responsible agents who should be held accountable for our actions, because responsibility is found in how people interact, not in brains.

An extraordinary book that ranges across neuroscience, psychology, ethics, and the law with a light touch but profound implications, Who’s in Charge? is a lasting contribution from one of the leading thinkers of our time.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
3
4 stars
2
3 stars
0
2 stars
0
1 star
0

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dreamweaver529 - LibraryThing

An interesting study of the interplay between mind and brain. Predominantly through studying of patents who have had their corpus callosum severed, thus separating the hemispheres of the brain, the ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - chaosmogony - LibraryThing

"We are people, not brains." That sums up the thrust of Gazzaniga's argument in "Who's in Charge?", adapted from his 2009 Gifford Lecture, a thorough and accessible look at trends in modern ... Read full review

Other editions - View all

About the author (2011)

Michael S. Gazzaniga is the director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the president of the Cognitive Neuroscience Institute, the founding director of the MacArthur Foundation's Law and Neuroscience Project, and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences. He lives in California.

Bibliographic information