The illusion (Ch. 1)
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jack Alan Reynolds
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So, here you are, reading about conscious will. How could this have happened? One way to explain it would be to examine the causes of your behavior. A team of scientists could study your reported thoughts, emotions, and motives, your genetics and your history of learning, experience, and development, your social situation and culture, your memories and reaction times, your physiology and neuroanatomy, and lots of other things as well. If they somehow had access to all the information they could ever want, the assumption of psychology is that they could uncover the mechanisms that give rise to all your behavior, and so could certainly explain why you are reading these words at this moment. However, another way to explain the fact of your reading these lines is just to say that you decided to begin reading. You consciously willed what you are doing. The ideas of conscious will and psychological mechanism have an oil and water relationship, having never been properly reconciled. One way to put them together is to say that the mechanistic approach is the explanation preferred for scientific purposes, but that the person’s experience of conscious will is utterly convincing and important to the person – and so must be understood scientifically as well. The mechanisms underlying the experience of will are themselves a fundamental topic of scientific study.
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