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Personal AgencyThe Metaphysics of Mind and Action$
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E. J. Lowe

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199217144

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199217144.001.0001

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Could Volitions Be Epiphenomenal?

Could Volitions Be Epiphenomenal?

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(p.79) 4 Could Volitions Be Epiphenomenal?
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Personal Agency
Author(s):

E. J. Lowe (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199217144.003.0005

This chapter looks at the claims of some philosophers and philosophically-minded psychologists that volitions or acts of will are merely epiphenomenal, in the sense that they do not actually play the causal role customarily assigned to them in the genesis of our intentional physical behaviour. These claims are allegedly supported by empirical studies supposedly showing that volitions are at best side-effects of the neurological processes which, according to these theorists, really initiate and sustain that behaviour. It is argued, however, that the empirical evidence in question not only does not, but could not, support the interpretation favoured by these theorists, because our very ability to conceive and investigate causal hypotheses in the sciences is predicated upon the fact that we are beings capable of actively intervening, at will, in the course of nature.

Keywords:   causal hypotheses, epiphenomenalism, intentional behaviour, neurological processes

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