The illusion of conscious will

Synthese 159 (2):197 - 213 (2007)
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Abstract

Wegner (Wegner, D. (2002). The illusion of conscious will. MIT Press) argues that conscious will is an illusion, citing a wide range of empirical evidence. I shall begin by surveying some of his arguments. Many are unsuccessful. But one—an argument from the ubiquity of self-interpretation—is more promising. Yet is suffers from an obvious lacuna, offered by so-called ‘dual process’ theories of reasoning and decision making (Evans, J., & Over, D. (1996). Rationality and reasoning. Psychology Press; Stanovich, K. (1999). Who is rational? Studies of individual differences in reasoning. Lawrence Erlbaum; Frankish, K. (2004). Mind and supermind. Cambridge University Press). I shall argue that this lacuna can be filled by a plausible a priori claim about the causal role of anything deserving to be called ‘a will.’ The result is that there is no such thing as conscious willing: conscious will is, indeed, an illusion.

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Author's Profile

Peter Carruthers
University of Maryland, College Park