Does Consciousness Cause Behavior?


Our intuition tells us that we, our conscious selves, cause our own voluntary acts. Yet scientists have long questioned this; Thomas Huxley, for example, in 1874 compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of a locomotive. New experimental evidence (most notable, work by Benjamin Libet and Daniel Wegner) has brought the causal status of human behavior back to the forefront of intellectual discussion. This multidisciplinary collection advances the debate, approaching the question from a variety of perspectives.

The contributors begin by examining recent research in neuroscience that suggests that consciousness does not cause behavior, offering the outline of an empirically based model that shows how the brain causes behavior and where consciousness might fit in. Other contributors address the philosophical presuppositions that may have informed the empirical studies, raising questions about what can be legitimately concluded about the existence of free will from Libet's and Wegner's experimental results. Others examine the effect recent psychological and neuroscientific research could have on legal, social, and moral judgments of responsibility and blame—in situations including A Clockwork Orange-like scenario of behavior correction.

Contributors: William P. Banks, Timothy Bayne, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Suparna Choudhury, Walter J. Freeman, Shaun Gallagher, Susan Hurley, Marc Jeannerod, Leonard V. Kaplan, Hakwan Lau, Sabine Maasen, Bertram F. Malle, Alfred R. Mele, Elisabeth Pacherie, Richard Passingham, Susan Pockett, Wolfgang Prinz, Peter W. Ross

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction

    Susan Pockett, William P. Banks, and Shaun Gallagher

  3. 1. The Neuroscience of Movement

    Susan Pockett

  4. 2. Consciousness of Action as an Embodied Consciousness

    Marc Jeannerod

  5. 3. Intentions, Actions, and the Self

    Suparna Choudhury and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

  6. 4. Free Choice and the Human Brain

    Richard E. Passingham and Hakwan C. Lau

  7. 5. Consciousness, Intentionality, and Causality

    Walter J. Freeman

  9. 6. Where's the Action? Epiphenomenalism and the Problem of Free Will

    Shaun Gallagher

  10. 7. Empirical Constraints on the Problem of Free Will

    Peter W. Ross

  11. 8. Toward a Dynamic Theory of Intentions

    Elisabeth Pacherie

  12. 9. Phenomenology and the Feeling of Doing: Wegner on the Conscious Will

    Timothy Bayne

  13. 10. Free Will: Theories, Analysis, and Data

    Alfred R. Mele

  14. 11. Of Windmills and Straw Men: Folk Assumptions of Mind and Action

    Bertram F. Malle

  16. 12. Does Consciousness Cause Misbehavior?

    William P. Banks

  17. 13. Free Will as a Social Institution

    Wolfgang Prinz

  18. 14. Truth and/or Consequences: Neuroscience and Criminal Responsibility

    Leonard V. Kaplan

  19. 15. Bypassing Conscious Control: Unconscious Imitation, Media Violence, and Freedom of Speech

    Susan Hurley

  20. 16. Neurosociety Ahead? Debating Free Will in the Media

    Sabine Maasen

  21. List of Contributors
  22. Index