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The Illusion of Conscious Will : The MIT Press - Daniel M. Wegner

The Illusion of Conscious Will

The MIT Press

Paperback

Published: 11th August 2003
For Ages: 18+ years old
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Selected as a Finalist in the category of Psychology/Mental Health in the 2002 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) presented by Independent Publisher Magazine., Silver Award Winner for Philosophy in the 2002 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards. and Selected as an Outstanding Academic Book for 2002 by Choice Magazine Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of free will versus determinism. In this book Daniel Wegner offers a novel understanding of the issue. Like actions, he argues, the feeling of conscious will is created by the mind and brain. Yet if psychological and neural mechanisms are responsible for all human behavior, how could we have conscious will? The feeling of conscious will, Wegner shows, helps us to appreciate and remember our authorship of the things our minds and bodies do. Yes, we feel that we consciously will our actions, Wegner says, but at the same time, our actions happen to us. Although conscious will is an illusion, it serves as a guide to understanding ourselves and to developing a sense of responsibility and morality. Approaching conscious will as a topic of psychological study, Wegner examines the issue from a variety of angles. He looks at illusions of the will?-those cases where people feel that they are willing an act that they are not doing or, conversely, are not willing an act that they in fact are doing. He explores conscious will in hypnosis, Ouija board spelling, automatic writing, and facilitated communication, as well as in such phenomena as spirit possession, dissociative identity disorder, and trance channeling. The result is a book that sidesteps endless debates to focus, more fruitfully, on the impact on our lives of the illusion of conscious will.

Wegner is a terrific writer, sharing his encyclopedic purchase on the material in amusing, entertaining, and masterful ways.

-David Brizer, M.D. , Psychiatric Services
... Dr. Wegner's critique... is less philosophical than empirical, drawing heavily upon recent research in cognitive science and neurology.

-John Horgan, The New York Times * Reviews *
Fascinating... I recommend the book as a first-rate intellectual adventure.

-Herbert Silverman, Science Books & Films * Reviews *
... very convincing.

-David Wilson, American Scientist * Reviews *
Wegner has finessed all the usual arguments into a remarkable demonstration of how psychology can sometimes transform philosophy.... [He] writes with humour and clarity.

-Susan Blackmore, Times Literary Supplement * Reviews *
Wegner is a terrific writer, sharing his encyclopedic purchase on the material in amusing, entertaining, and masterful ways.

-David Brizer, M.D. , Psychiatric Services * Reviews *

Prefacep. ix
The Illusionp. 1
It usually seems that we consciously will our voluntary actions, but this is an illusion.
Brain and Bodyp. 29
Conscious will arises from processes that are psychologically and anatomically distinct from the processes whereby mind creates action.
The Experience of Willp. 63
The experience of conscious will arises when we infer that our conscious intention has caused our voluntary action, although both intention and action are themselves caused by mental processes that do not feel willed.
An Analysis of Automatismp. 99
The experience of will can be reduced to very low levels under certain conditions, even for actions that are voluntary, purposive, and complex-and what remains is automatism.
Protecting the Illusionp. 145
The illusion of will is so compelling that it can prompt the belief that acts were intended when they could not have been. It is as though people aspire to be ideal agents who know all their actions in advance.
Action Projectionp. 187
The authorship of one's own action can be lost, projected away from self to other people or groups or even animals.
Virtual Agencyp. 221
When people project action to imaginary agents, they create virtual agents, apparent sources of their own action. This process underlies spirit possession and dissociative identity disorder as well as the formation of the agent self.
Hypnosis and Willp. 271
In hypnosis the person experiences a loss of conscious will. This loss accompanies an apparent transfer of control to someone else, along with the creation of some exceptional forms of control over the self.
The Mind's Compassp. 317
Although the experience of conscious will is not evidence of mental causation, it does signal personal authorship of action to the individual and so influences both the sense of achievement and the acceptance of moral responsibility.
Referencesp. 343
Author Indexp. 387
Subject Indexp. 399
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780262731621
ISBN-10: 0262731622
Series: The MIT Press
Audience: Professional
For Ages: 18+ years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 440
Published: 11th August 2003
Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.9 x 15.8  x 2.6
Weight (kg): 0.57