Is there a Sense of Agency for Thought?

Joëlle Proust

in Mental Actions

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780199225989
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191710339 | DOI:
Is there a Sense of Agency for Thought?

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Does awareness of agency entitle a subject to believe that she is performing a mental action? Two sorts of fact suggest a sceptical answer: the conflicting intuitions of normal (unimpaired) thinkers, and the phenomenon of thought insertion in schizophrenia. Various theories of mental action might respond to the sceptic's worries, in particular John Campbell's and Christopher Peacocke's. The first takes thinking to be a covert type of motor activity, which engages substantially the same kind of mechanisms. The second aims to identify mental actions based on their ‘trying’ structure. Trying to judge causes in a thinker a non-perceptual awareness of judging. Problems with both theories are discussed. An alternative proposal is offered, where mental tryings necessarily involve predictive and retrodictive evaluations of adequacy. The metacognitive feelings produced in these evaluations provide the basis of a sense of mental agency.

Keywords: thought insertion; entitlement; mental action; self-knowledge; metacognition; epistemic feelings; motor theory of thinking; awareness of agency

Chapter.  13558 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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