Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual Volition and Social Context
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.
Harold Kincaid is Professor in the School of Economics and Director of the Research Unit in Behavioural Economics and Neuroeconomics at the University of Cape Town. He is the coeditor of Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual Volition and Social Context and What Is Addiction? (both published by the MIT Press).
Philosophers and behavioral scientists discuss what, if anything, of the traditional concept of individual conscious will can survive recent scientific discoveries that human decision-making is distributed across different brain processes and through the social environment.
Recent scientific findings about human decision making would seem to threaten the traditional 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 from below the level of our conscious awareness, and from “above” by the recognition that we adapt our actions according to social dynamics of which we are seldom aware. In Distributed Cognition 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 all take science seriously, and they are inspired by the idea that apparent threats to the cogency of the idea of will might instead become the basis of its reemergence as a scientific subject. They consider macro-scale issues of society and culture, the micro-scale dynamics of the mind/brain, and connections between macro-scale and micro-scale phenomena in the self-guidance and self-regulation of 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. Zawidzki
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