Beyond the Algorithms Are Consciousness and Freedom
International Journal of Philosophy
Volume 8, Issue 1, March 2020, Pages: 1-7
Received: Jan. 27, 2020; Accepted: Feb. 17, 2020; Published: Feb. 25, 2020
Views 334      Downloads 134
Juan Pedro Nuñez, Psychology Department, Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Madrid, Spain
Article Tools
Follow on us
The study of consciousness has become the “most precious trophy” of neuroscience, artificial intelligence (AI) and psychology alike. Because consciousness is part to the primary dimension of the mind, indeed, the only one we can access directly, and because consciousness is what gives us our knowledge of the world and of ourselves, its scientific study will bring us closer to understanding the very nature of what we are as individuals. The study of consciousness engages the thorny issue of whether we are free beings, individuals who exercise free will and are responsible for our actions. Since today, the concept most widely held in the sciences that elucidate the functioning of the human mind is that, basically, human beings are a complex physiological computational mechanism; it is easy to understand how deciphering the nature of consciousness can constitute a “threat” to the principle of the individual’s moral responsibility. The mechanistic theory warns that freedom, understood as the ability to make decisions that are not circumscribed by any type of rule or pre-established process, may be a mere illusion based on a false sense of “control”. This may seem to be the case, just as for centuries it seemed that the sun rotated around the earth, as that was the impression conveyed to the senses. Along these lines, when we think consciously, we consider the advantages and disadvantages of different options, and make decisions on the basis of an evaluation of the best alternative. However, under the mechanistic premise, all of life's experiences would be reduced to the culmination of unconscious processes that are beyond our control, and the experience of consciousness would exert no causal function over our actions or our internal states of mind. The main aim in this article is to discuss some of the weaknesses of a strictly mechanistic explanation of how the human works. To do this, it presents a critical review of some of the different approaches to the study of consciousness advanced to date and concludes with the submission of an own proposal.
Consciousness, Unconscious, Mechanistic Theory, Freedom
To cite this article
Juan Pedro Nuñez, Beyond the Algorithms Are Consciousness and Freedom, International Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 8, No. 1, 2020, pp. 1-7. doi: 10.11648/j.ijp.20200801.11
Copyright © 2020 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Bressler, S., Kay, L., Kozma, R., Liljenström, H., & Vitiello, G. (2018). Freeman neurodynamics: The past 25 years. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25 (1–2), 13–32.
Vitiello, G. (2018). The brain and its mindful double. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25 (1–2), 151–176.
Singer, W. (2017). Conscious Processing. The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness, 607-620. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Searle, J. R. (1992). The Rediscovery of the Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Chalmers, D. (1996). The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.
Núñez, J. P. (2012). La mente: La última frontera. Madrid: Universidad Comillas.
Dennett, D. C. (1991). Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little Brown.
Dehaene, S., Lau, H., & Kouider, S. (2017). What is consciousness, and could machines have it? Science, 358 (6362), 486-492.
Ryle, G. (1949). The concept of mind. Oxford: Barnes & Noble.
Cleeremans, A. (2011). The radical plasticity thesis: How the brain learns to be conscious. Frontiers in Psychology, 2.
Damasio, A. (2003). Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. New York: Harcourt.
Ashby, N. J. S., Glöckner, A., & Dickert, S. (2011). Conscious and unconscious thought in risky choice: Testing the capacity principle and the appropriate weighting principle of unconscious thought theory. Frontiers in Psychology, 2.
Hesselmann, G., & Moors, P. (2015). Definitely maybe: Can unconscious processes perform the same functions as conscious processes? Frontiers in Psychology, 6.
Rosenbaum, D. A., Chapman, K. M., Coelho, C. J., Gong, L., & Studenka, B. E. (2013). Choosing actions. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.
Baumeister, R. F., Lau, S., Maranges, H. M. & Clark, C. J. (2018). On the necessity of consciousness for sophisticated human action. Frontiers in Psychology, 9.
Pinker, S. (1997). How the Mind Works. N. Y.: W. W. Norton & Company Inc.
Libet, B. (1985). Unconscious Cerebral Initiative and the Role of Conscious Will in Voluntary Action. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8 (4), 529-566.
Baars, B. J. (1988). A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2011). Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain. New York: Ecco.
Blackmore, S (2005). Conversations on Consciousness. New York: Oxford University Press.
Damasio, A. (1999). The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in The Making of Consciousness. Fort Worth, TX US: Harcourt College Publishers.
Science Publishing Group
1 Rockefeller Plaza,
10th and 11th Floors,
New York, NY 10020
Tel: (001)347-983-5186