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Can conscious agency be saved?

Abstract : This paper is concerned with the role of conscious agency in human action. On a folk-psychological view of the structure of agency, intentions, conceived as conscious mental states, are the causes of actions. In the last decades, the development of new psychological and neuroscientific methods has made conscious agency an object of empirical investigation and yielded results that challenge the received wisdom. Most famously, the results of Libet's studies on the 'readiness potential' have been interpreted by many as evidence in favor of a skeptical attitude towards conscious agency. It is questionable, however, whether action initiation should be regarded as the touchstone of conscious agency. I shall argue that the traditional folk-psychological view, but also some of the objections leveled against it, rest in part on an over-simplified conception of the structure of agency, that neglects both the role of control processes after action initiation and the role of planning processes before action initiation. Taking these processes into account can lead to a reassessment of the relation between intentions and action and of the role of conscious agency in action production.
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Contributor : Elisabeth Pacherie <>
Submitted on : Friday, October 11, 2013 - 12:38:41 PM
Last modification on : Friday, July 2, 2021 - 9:58:02 AM
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Elisabeth Pacherie. Can conscious agency be saved?. Topoi, Springer Verlag, 2013, pp.1-13. ⟨10.1007/s11245-013-9187-6⟩. ⟨ijn_00872165⟩



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