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Coming to MindThe Soul and Its Body$
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Lenn E. Goodman and D. Gregory Caramenico

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226061061

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226061238.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 14 October 2019

Agency

Agency

Chapter:
(p.175) Five Agency
Source:
Coming to Mind
Author(s):

Lenn E. Goodman

D. Gregory Caramenico

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226061238.003.0005

Our case for the soul stands or falls with human agency: Do we act, or are we only acted upon? William James, deeply troubled by epiphenomenalism, which made thought no more consequential to action than the whistle on a steam engine, responded (after working things out) that unless thought made some practical difference there’d be no more selective advantage in awareness than evolution imparts to the reflexes of an oyster. Jaegwon Kim has revived the epiphenomenalist claim, arguing that free will violates “causal closure,” by introducing energies into the world unregulated by natural law. But we argue that living beings have ample energies to pursue their interests. The familiar conflict of causal determinism with voluntarism is bogus, since the free will worth having is not indeterminist. It involves self-determination. The readiness potential that Benjamin Libet recorded, we suspect, marks not a pre-choice determination but, as its name implies, a preparedness to act. Much that we do is a matter of habit or routine. But these are often consciously, freely, painstakingly acquired. We may, at times, assign choices to random outcomes. But we remain free agents. We use our brains and are not well described as merely being used by them.

Keywords:   Free will, Volition, William James, Benjamin Libet, top-down causality, epiphenomenalism, Robert Kane, Alfred Mele

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