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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

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The Libet experiment: Is free will just an illusion?

2 minutes

Can we really make conscious decisions, or is agency just a trick of the brain?

We tend to take it for granted that conscious thoughts precede our actions. However, the US scientist Benjamin Libet’s groundbreaking 1980s experiments on the relationship between brain activity, conscious thoughts and physical actions caused some scientists and philosophers to rethink the concept of ‘free will’ and ask whether our decisions are made subconsciously before we’re even aware of them.

Video by BBC Radio 4

Script: Nigel Warburton

Animation: Andrew Park

Support Aeon

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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

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