Eric LaRock
Oakland University
I propose an Aristotelian approach to agent causation that is consistent with the hypothesis of strong emergence. This approach motivates a wider ontology than materialism by maintaining (1) that the agent is generated by the brain without being reducible to it on grounds of the unity of experience and (2) that the agent possesses (formal) causal power to affect (i.e., mold, sculpt, or organize) the brain on grounds of agent-directed neuroplasticity. After providing recent empirical evidence for the strong emergence of the agent, I then articulate and analyze a dominant objection to agent causation discussed in neuroscience, which is based upon the observation of the readiness potential (or RP) in the brain. In this context, the RP refers to unconscious neuronal events (in the supplementary motor area) that precede the formation of a (proximal) conscious intention to act. So it appears as if the train of neuronal events has left the depot before the agent can act. In response to this objection, I argue (a) that even if one were to grant that the RP precedes the formation of a conscious intention, it would not follow (on both logical and empirical grounds) that there is no conscious agent causation; and (b) that the objection disappears when one takes into account distal versus proximal intentions.
Keywords Aristotle, Agent Causation, Binding, Chalmers, Consciousness, Neuroplasticity
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DOI 10.5840/ipq201353441
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