Mental mechanisms, autonomous systems, and moral agency

Mechanistic explanations of cognitive activities are ubiquitous in cognitive science. Humanist critics often object that mechanistic accounts of the mind are incapable of accounting for the moral agency exhibited by humans. We counter this objection by offering a sketch of how the mechanistic perspective can accommodate moral agency. We ground our argument in the requirement that biological systems be active in order to maintain themselves in nonequilibrium conditions. We discuss such consequences as a role for mental mechanisms in controlling active systems and agents’ development of a self concept in which the self is represented as a moral agent
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