Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual Volition and Social Context

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MIT Press, 2007 - Philosophy - 369 pages

Recent scientific findings about human decision making would seem to threaten thetraditional concept of the individual conscious will. The will is threatened from "below"by the discovery that our apparently spontaneous actions are actually controlled and initiated frombelow the level of our conscious awareness, and from "above" by the recognition that weadapt our actions according to social dynamics of which we are seldom aware. In DistributedCognition and the Will, leading philosophers and behavioral scientists consider how much,if anything, of the traditional concept of the individual conscious will survives these discoveries,and they assess the implications for our sense of freedom and responsibility. The contributors alltake science seriously, and they are inspired by the idea that apparent threats to the cogency ofthe idea of will might instead become the basis of its reemergence as a scientific subject. Theyconsider macro-scale issues of society and culture, the micro-scale dynamics of the mind/brain, andconnections between macro-scale and micro-scale phenomena in the self-guidance and self-regulationof personal behavior.

Contributors: George Ainslie, Wayne Christensen, Andy Clark,Paul Sheldon Davies, Daniel C. Dennett, Lawrence A. Lengbeyer, Dan Lloyd, Philip Pettit, Don Ross,Tamler Sommers, Betsy Sparrow, Mariam Thalos, Jeffrey B. Vancouver, Daniel M. Wegner, Tadeusz W.ZawidzkiDon Ross is Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Finance, Economics, and QuantitativeMethods at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Professor of Economics at the University ofCape Town, South Africa. David Spurrett is Professor of Philosophy at the Howard College Campus ofthe University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Harold Kincaid is Professor and Chair of theDepartment of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Ethics and Values in the Sciences at theUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham. G. Lynn Stephens is Professor of Philosophy at the Universityof Alabama at Birmingham.


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Science Catches the Will
2 The Puzzle of Coaction
3 What Kind of Agent Are We? A Naturalistic Framework for the Study of Human Agency
4 The Illusion of Freedom Evolves
5 Neuroscience and AgentControl
6 My Body Has a Mind of Its Own
7 Soft Selves and Ecological Control
Toward a Naturalistic Control Account of Agency
The Example of Will
10 The Economic and Evolutionary Basis of Selves
The Perspect Model
12 The Evolutionary Origins of Volition
13 What Determines the Self in SelfRegulation? Applied Psychologys Struggle with Will
14 Civil Schizophrenia

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About the author (2007)

Don Ross is Professor of Economics and Dean of Commerce at the University of Cape Town, and Research Fellow in the Center for Economic Analysis of Risk at Georgia State University.. He is the author of Economic Theory and Cognitive Science: Microexplanation (MIT Press, 2005), companion volume to Midbrain Mutiny.

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