Could Volitions Be Epiphenomenal?

E. J. Lowe

in Personal Agency

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199217144
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191712418 | DOI:
 Could Volitions Be Epiphenomenal?

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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

Chapter.  5298 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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