Isn't it time we look at Free Will from a biological evolutionary perspective?

Dr. Mark Solms describes Free Will from a biological evolutionary perspective:

Professor Mark Solms from the University of Cape Town (UCT) a question (see below) posed to him on UCT's free online course, "What is a Mind?",

hosted by FutureLearn. For more information on visit​ .

Question: “In the first video “Agency” is likened to “Free Will”. Would you agree the two are different - agency being the capacity to make decisions and act accordingly, consciously or otherwise, and arising from causal chains of thought which in turn, are the product of brain biochemistry; and free will being a more abstract concept carrying some implication of moral judgment? Actually, does free will even exist?”


I’ve been taking this short online course, having fun and being enlightened.

It’s fascinating and satisfying to see that from a psychoanalyst and neuropsychologist perspective, Free Will is a very real thing and they have evidence. Not to deny that much is instinctual and preordained, if you like, but that ultimately Free Will is what keeps the clock of life’s evolution wound up.

For a deeper dive:


The Source of Consciousness - with Mark Solms - On YouTube

https: //www. youtube. com/watch?v=CmuYrnOVmfk

March 4, 2021, The Royal Institution

Mark Solms discusses his new theory of consciousness that returns emotions to the centre of mental life. Mark’s book “The Hidden Spring” is available now:​ Watch the Q&A: Q&A: The Source of Consciousness - with Mark Solms - YouTube Understanding why we feel a subjective sense of self and how it arises in the brain seems like an impossible task. Mark explores the subjective experiences of hundreds of neurological patients, many of whom he treated.

Their uncanny conversations help to expose the brain’s obscure reaches. Mark Solms has spent his entire career investigating the mysteries of consciousness. Best known for identifying the brain mechanisms of dreaming and for bringing psychoanalytic insights into modern neuroscience, he is director of neuropsychology in the Neuroscience Institute of the University of Cape Town, honorary lecturer in neurosurgery at the Royal London Hospital School of Medicine, and an honorary fellow of the American College of Psychiatrists.


One of his papers:

The Hard Problem of Consciousness and the Free Energy Principle

Mark Solms

Front Psychol. 2018; 9: 2714.
Published online 2019 Jan 30. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02714

This article applies the free energy principle to the hard problem of consciousness. After clarifying some philosophical issues concerning functionalism, it identifies the elemental form of consciousness as affectand locates its physiological mechanism (an extended form of homeostasis) in the upper brainstem. This mechanism is then formalized in terms of free energy minimization (in unpredicted contexts) where decreases and increases in expected uncertainty are felt as pleasure and unpleasure, respectively. Emphasis is placed on the reasons why such existential imperatives feel like something to and for an organism. …

https: //www. ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/pmc/articles/PMC6363942/


"What is the philosophical concept of free will?" {Perhaps "Free Won't" is the more accurate term!}

FutureLearn - May 18, 2015 - www. YouTube. com/watch?v=AwYz5UW66jI

‘What is a Mind?’ is a free online course by the University of Cape Town available on Professor Mark Solms, Chair of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town discusses the concepts of ‘agency’, thinking and free will. While instincts don’t require decision-making, everything else we had to learn for survival is based on making choices - and these choices require thinking. This is where agency kicks in. Thinking is imagined or experimental action. It depends on the suppression - or inhibition - of instincts, enabling us not to act. This is what is meant by the philosophical concept of free will. Another way of describing agency is as the ownership of your intentionality. This same property also applies to subjectivity and consciousness - I am the subject of my mind and these conscious experiences belong to me. So, reflexivity is a property of agency - the ability to look at yourself, to be aware of your own awareness, to see yourself as an object. This involves abstraction, and the best tool we have for abstraction is language.


So sad that for all the daydreaming people do about consciousness, mind, freewill, (or is it actually free-won’t), that this stuff doesn’t seem to resonate with many. Seems to me a gateway to a world of constructive interesting discussion, but it takes a few to do the verbal tango.


What the mind is for (Dr. Mark Solms)


In responding to the question “What is a Mind?”, we’ve examined defining properties of a mind in some detail from different disciplinary perspectives.


I have argued that these defining properties are:

… Subjectivity: You are the subjective aspect of your body, what it is to be your body from the inside as opposed to observing it from the outside. Only you can know what that is like.

… Consciousness: The capability of consciousness is added to subjectivity; a conscious subject feels like something. The function of consciousness is to determine how you are doing in terms of your vital needs. These states register as feelings of pleasure and unpleasure, of which there are a great variety.

… Intentionality: Feelings are about things. Our perceptions and other representations concern objects in the outside world, which is the only place where they can be resolved. This ‘aboutness’ is called intentionality and links our subjective feelings to the external environment.

… Agency: This is the ability to own our actions and responses. We use thinking as a tool for imagining possible outcomes before deciding how to act, thereby suppressing our instincts.


I’ve taken you on a journey of exploring what a mind is and tried to address the question ‘what is a mind for?’. I’ve already said that you are your mind and you are also your body. So, what is the difference between you and your body? I argue that you are the being of your body - you are the subjective aspect of your body. The mind is not an object - it is a subject.

Through thinking, the mind turns yourself back into itself as an object, so you can think about yourself in relation to other things.

© University of Cape Town CC-BY-NC. (


On an offsides tangent, it’s weird watching my own body transition for a fit machine to be proud of, to this degenerating remnant, which like the town of Bodie is being held in a state of “arrested decay.” That in itself isn’t the weird part, it’s seeing how my decrepit-izing is being mirrored in USA’s political and societal unraveling. And given that learning seems to have become a common enemy of both sides, where’s that leave us, or should I say our children?

How curious, there was a day you mentioned Free Will and the thread would get lively. Guess even Free Will has lost its interest.

Probably a good thing since the arguments were rather contrived, convoluted and diverged from the actual experiences we live.


Today’s reality reminds me of an old movie The NeverEnding Story, where the fantasy world of Fantasia is slowly being devoured by a malevolent force called “The Nothing.” With its Swamps of Sadness, that drained the life juices right outta ya.

Today, it’s the Big Lie, ME FIRST: It’s all about us and blow all the others.

I’ve been busy. Also, I remember those old discussions going in circles. But thanks for the links

I know you’ve been busy, but remember the days when everyone seemed to want to get in on the action in those threads?

Actually in a way, it seems as though those other discussions were settled with that interesting post by Lois. But, still this stuff takes it to the next level, down to Earth with a look at biological origins.

What I’m enthralled with is that those other discussions never took into account, us people as the biological products of the evolution that we are. Those philosophical discussion always seems trapped within our minds and egos as though they are isolated.

Whereas Solms and Damasio point us towards the biological origins of Free Will, which turns out to better described as Free Won’t. Because, it’s the ability to think about and interference with our instinctual reflex actions, that is, where we take the time to imagine and evaluate alternate behaviors and their probable outcomes, and choose the most constructive, or at least least destructive outcomes.

I’ll try to get to this Solms stuff. My recollection, Lois was stuck on some theme that did not resonate with me. But I’m not going to go look it up.

Yeah, I’m too lazy to do it also, though I should.

I remember her not resonating with me at all either, but then she wrote a summary that really impressed me, and I remember thinking we weren’t that far apart, we were just misreading each other.

She hasn’t been posting much, maybe sometime I’ll try to dig it up, gotta be somewhere near the top.


Ask Mark 5.5 -

Difference Between Agency and Free Will

Professor Mark Solms from the University of Cape Town (UCT) a question posed to him on UCT’s free online course, “What is a Mind?”, hosted by FutureLearn

Question: “In the first video “Agency” is likened to “Free Will”. Would you agree the two are different - agency being the capacity to make decisions and act accordingly, consciously or otherwise, and arising from causal chains of thought which in turn, are the product of brain biochemistry; and free will being a more abstract concept carrying some implication of moral judgment? Actually, does free will even exist?”

What it is to Anil Seth. Looks almost identical to me.

Compare this to Solms’ list above ( Edited for the pertinent time.) ;

Matter is controlled by the laws of nature at all times, and cannot do anything independent of these laws. If we think we are material, that means we are wholly a body made of matter, it is nature that determines our choices, and as long as we are under the control of the laws of nature we will act according to how nature forces us.
Now if we were something else in the body we would have a slight amount of freewill.We can chose to be under the control of the material energy or under the control of what may be within us.

I am thinking about superposition of neural states and mental processes and if we could choose from the superposition and exercise a form of will that would still be deterministic.

Actually if you think about individual free will does not really matter except to the individual and may be an illusion. In the big picture its Humankind that matters so does the whole human race follow a path of freewill or are we bound by nature driving us down that path?