Download Conscious Will and Responsibility: A Tribute to Benjamin by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Lynn Nadel PDF

By Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Lynn Nadel

All of us appear to imagine that we do the acts we do simply because we consciously decide to do them. This common-sense view is thrown into dispute via Benjamin Libet's eyebrow-raising experiments, which appear to recommend that wakeful will happens no longer sooner than yet after the beginning of mind task that produces actual action.

Libet's remarkable effects are usually claimed to undermine conventional perspectives of loose will and ethical accountability and to have sensible implications for felony justice. His paintings has additionally motivated a flurry of additional attention-grabbing clinical research--including findings in psychology by means of Dan Wegner and in neuroscience through John-Dylan Haynes--that increases novel questions about no matter if wide awake will performs any causal function in motion. Critics reply that either common-sense perspectives of motion and standard theories of ethical and obligation, in addition to loose will, can live to tell the tale the medical onslaught of Libet and his progeny. To extra this energetic debate, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Lynn Nadel have introduced jointly famous specialists in neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and legislation to debate no matter if our wide awake offerings rather reason our activities, and what the solutions to that query suggest for the way we view ourselves and the way we must always deal with every one other.

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Additional resources for Conscious Will and Responsibility: A Tribute to Benjamin Libet (Oxford Series in Neuroscience, Law and Philosophy)

Sample text

1. SOME CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND: DECISIONS, INTENTIONS, AND WANTING Some conceptual background is in order. I focus on the concept of deciding: that is, deciding to do something—practical deciding—as opposed to deciding that something is true (as in “Ann decided that Bob was lying”). And I briefly discuss its connections to some related concepts. 2 In my view, it is a momentary action of forming an intention to A (Mele, 2003, ch. 9). Deliberation about what to do is not momentary, but it must be distinguished from an act of deciding that is based on deliberation.

If this is right, we must think about Libet’s experiments in a different way. In order to perform task (1) (spontaneously but deliberately moving a finger), the subject must form a conscious intention that we may characterize as having the content “move finger” (or perhaps “move finger now”). In order to monitor one’s conscious state and report on the timing of one’s intention, task (2), one has to effortfully direct attention to one’s intentional state, because intentions don’t present themselves in the same way as perceptions.

As Banks and Pockett have noted (Banks & Pockett, 2007), subjects in the experiment are in one sense compelled to move their fingers, since they have agreed to participate in the experiment and comply with the experiment’s demands. 18 What they are deciding is not whether to move their finger, but rather when to. However, there are no reasons that govern their choices to act when they do. It does not matter, for the satisfactory execution of the experimental task, whether the subjects move their finger now .

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