Can Armstrong cope with Libet’s challenge?
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According to our ordinary conception of voluntary action, our actions are the causal result of conscious intentions. To take a very basic example: I wish to take a sip of coffee, and I therefore reach out and take hold of the mug. However, studies performed by Libet challenge this ordinary conception. What Libet found in his experiments was that the brain initiates voluntary actions and the person becomes consciously aware of an intention to act only some 400 msec after the brain’s initiation; for instance, my brain has already initiated the process of causing my arm to reach out and take hold of the mug some 400 msec before I am aware that I wish to take a sip of coffee. That is, conscious intention doesn’t appear to precede voluntary action at all – it actually follows it (or follows its initiation, at least), and thus Libet’s studies present a serious challenge to our ordinary conception of voluntary action. This project will investigate whether a particular theory of mind – namely, Armstrong’s Central State Materialism – can cope with the challenge posed by Libet’s studies and salvage our ordinary conception of voluntary action. Armstrong’s theory appears promising in this regard because his account of consciousness and introspection as higher-order states seems to allow room that we will become aware of our willings only after those willings are already initiated.
- Master of Arts