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Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will$
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Nancey Murphy and Warren S. Brown

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199215393

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199215393.001.0001

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From Mindless to Intelligent Action

From Mindless to Intelligent Action

(p.105) 3 From Mindless to Intelligent Action
Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?

Nancey Murphy (Contributor Webpage)

Warren S. Brown (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter builds upon the preceding account of complex causal processes by considering step-by-step the increasing abilities of organisms to respond to information about their environments in increasingly flexible ways, and the neural processes that make this flexibility possible. The characteristics of goal-directedness and evaluation are present in even the most rudimentary biological activity; the distinctiveness of intelligent action lies in the organism's ability to detach itself from immediate biological and environmental stimuli, and in the character of the evaluative processes involved. Such evaluation depends on hierarchical structuring of cognitive processes such that higher animals are able to make their own actions (and in the case of humans, their own cognition) the product of evaluation. The nature of consciousness in evaluative processes is also discussed.

Keywords:   flexibility, intelligent action, evaluation, goal-directedness, consciousness

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