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R O B E R T H A R D I N G Wo r l d I m a g e r y / G e t t y I m a g e s by psychologist Larry L. Jacoby, now at Washington University, gathered test subjects in a room and very briefly projected onto a screen before them a single word, flashed so quickly that it was impossible for the viewers to consciously register it as a word, yet the visual imprint was recognized somewhere in the visual centers of the brain. Later on, when Jacoby projected the same image again for a longer time, the participants repeatedly claimed to have seen the word before.

It has not been denied; it is simply absent from the neuroscientific description of human behavior, as a direct result of treating the brain as an automatic machine. But just because responsibility cannot be assigned to clocks does not mean it cannot be ascribed to people. In this sense, human beings are special and different from robots. This is a fundamental point. Neuroscience will never find the brain correlate of responsibility, because that is something we ascribe to people, not to brains.

48 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND COPYRIGHT 2005 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC. G E T T Y I M AG E S as in hypnosis or in disorders such as kleptomania. When someone performs a free action to do A, he or she could have done B. When someone makes a constrained action to do A, he or she could have done only A. Ayer argued that actions are free as long as they are not constrained. Free actions are not dependent on the existence of a cause but on the source of the cause. Although Ayer did not explicitly discuss the brain’s role, one could make the analogy that those actions— and indeed those wills — that are caused by a disease-free brain are not constrained, even though they may be determined.

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