Are we free in our decision-making? Neuroeconomics says no.

Since ancient times, philosophers and theologists held civilization based upon the idea that all of us can decide between right and wrong by moral ethics, that our civilization is built in the Free Will of people. Christian philosophy introduced the first concept of Free Will, with a traditional meaning of ‘lack of necessity in human will’, so that ‘the will is free’ meant ‘the will does not have to be such as it is’. Thomas Aquinas defended an idea of Free Will where ‘God, therefore, is the first cause who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes, He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary’. This idea represents what Christian tradition thought about Free Will, also denominated as ‘moral liberty’, which is the capacity to discern and pursue the good, instead of merely being compelled by appetites and desires.

The Enlightenment supposed a challenge to the traditional Christian conception, with Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Baruch de Spinoza defending other perceptions based upon science, psychology and rationality over God and moral liberty. Spinoza introduced an opposed idea of theologists, defending that Free Will is only an illusion, by saying that ‘Experience teaches us no less clearly than reason, that men believe themselves free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined’. The neuroscientist approach to Free Will is similar to the exposed by Spinoza but focused on the brain responses during decision-making processes, defending that it is an illusion, and our decisions are pre-programmed by our brain.

Neuroeconomics combines psychology, neuroscience, economics, and biology to build a unified theory of human behaviour.

There are several questions to make: Do people have Free Will, or is this universal belief an illusion? Is neuroeconomics the Death of Free Will? Despite all the scientific evidence about the role of our brain in pre-programming decisions we make, there’s a misconception of the own term of Free Will, in the neuroscientific community. Agreeing with the conception of Doctor Danil Razeev; there is another factor that plays the primary role in the brain during the decision-making, which is the Free Action, that plays the first-order intention in the brain and it’s the programming that makes the brain before the awareness of the decision. The second-order intention is the Free Will, which is the pre-awareness of the decision taken, and in this second intention, we are aware and can decide against the first-order intention made by the brain.

Neuroeconomics is not the death of Free Will, it is the acknowledgement of the processes that the brain makes to take those decisions, and by this, study how people are programmed and subordinated by the brain to the processes of decision making, but been able to act against the pre-programming, influenced by external or internal factors that also play an important role in the decision-making process.