Cognitive research by Benjamin Libet and others have shown that our brains generate decisions before we’re even aware of them, which suggests there is no free will because our decisions are made unconsciously.
Scientist locates free will in the brain
Paul Bisceglio writes about a new study with unexpected results. Free will may sneak its way into our decision making through a surprising source: brain static. This neural noise is simply that the brain is always firing even in the absence of input or responses.
Researchers at the University of California-Davis measured the brain activity of a handful of undergraduates as each made choices to look left or right when prompted by images on a screen.
The study's result: Fluctuations in brain static actually predicted the direction in which students chose to look.
These constant fluctuations exist apart from our normal unconsciously determined thought, so they seem to allow for “spontaneous” thought. “Neural noise might be how we can generate novel responses to new situational demands,” says Jesse Bengson, the study’s lead author.
Others have criticized the short time frames between action and movement used in this kind of research that were likely creating distortions in the data.
Rudolf Steiner's locates free will in the mind
Rudolf Steiner's theory of free will is dependent on finding the region of the mind where free will can originate. 1918 Preface to the revised Philosophy Of Freedom
Conceptual sphere of universal concepts
This region is the conceptual sphere of universal concepts. It is the sphere where mathematical, philosophical, logical and analytical scientific thinking takes place when one is immersed in pure universal concepts.
Universal concepts are an all inclusive ideal just as the concept triangle includes all triangles and the concept tree includes all trees. Universals do not include sense perceptible content such as a particular triangle (right triangle) or a particular tree (oak tree). Thinking in universals is non-sensory, non-empirical, and non-physical pure thinking.
Free thinking is possible in the conceptual sphere
To think in pure concepts is free thinking, free of bias, where thought is linked with thought according to the ideal content. This is also known in philosophy as reason. Pure concepts are not sense perceptible, they are perceived intuitively in the mind, making reason an intuitive process. POF 9.4
If free thinking is possible, then free will is possible
An action determined by free thinking means that our conduct is not influenced by an established character disposition, or an external moral principle accepted on authority. The action is not a stereotypical one that follows a set of norms, or is it an automatic response to external stimuli. Free action is guided by an idea consciously originating in free thinking. POF 9.5