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When consciousness matters: a critical review of Daniel Wegner's The illusion of conscious will

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In The illusion of conscious will, Daniel Wegner offers an exciting, informative, and potentially threatening treatise on the psychology of action. I offer several interpretations of the thesis that conscious will is an illusion. The one Wegner seems to suggest is "modular epiphenomenalism": conscious experience of will is produced by a brain system distinct from the system that produces action; it interprets our behavior but does not, as it seems to us, cause it. I argue that the evidence Wegner presents to support this theory, though fascinating, is inconclusive and, in any case, he has not shown that conscious will does not play a crucial causal role in planning, forming intentions, etc. This theory's potential blow to our self-conception turns out to be a glancing one.
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: 2002-12-01

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