“Categorising Libet-like experiments (from 1983 to 2013)”
The present paper describes and analyses ten scientific experiments on free action, which followed Benjamin Libet’s experiment in 1983. Through the study of neuronal activity previous to the decision of acting freely, these experiments have engaged with the philosophical themes of consciousness and human freedom. Given the diversity of perspectives and conclusions of these experiments regarding these notions, I offer a description and analysis of these experiments, in order to construct a framework in which future interdisciplinary research and dialogue could flourish. My strategy is threefold. First, I will briefly consider Libet’s experiment. Second, I will present ten of the most relevant and most quoted replications of Libet’s experiment. These replications began shortly after Libet’s experiment and continue to be performed until today. Finally, I will present a short comparative analysis of these replications. As a conclusion, I will present the four main lines of research in which the experiments are framed and through which the definitions of the philosophical notions of consciousness and freedom used are defined: 1) research focused on cortical electrophysiological activity preceding motor activity, 2) research focused on the study of consciousness, 3) research arguing that Libet wasn’t studying real free acts and aim at doing so, and 4) research that criticises Libet’s methodology and aims at improving it.