Master of Arts
Date of Defense
Berit Brogaard, Ph.D.
Cognitive science has recently supported and popularized the idea that perhaps free will is but an illusion. With his theory of apparent mental causation, Daniel M. Wegner in particular proposes that our beliefs about intention and the control we exert over our actions are actually based upon other factors and usually occur retroactively. Since many of our actions are determined and preformed outside of awareness, the cause of said actions could then be difficult to locate. Part of Wegner’s argument lies in his assumption of brain activity and corresponding behavior as conscious and “controlled” or outside of awareness and unintended. Reducing human qualities such as creativity and rational thinking to mere neurological firings seems too far a stretch for even the cognitive scientist. While the cause of one’s action is not a homunculus, it may be more than just the pathways within the brain. To assume such only looks at the human being on a micro level and ignores not only the individual, but also the species. Implementation intentions and cognitive-behavioral therapy are empirical examples of willing conscious thought to eventually overtake an unconscious, unintended reaction. In this paper, I examine different theories of consciousness that Wegner fails to acknowledge in his own theory, therefore leaving his own theory unclear and desperate of clarification. After giving evidence of the interaction between conscious and unconscious states, I propose that consciousness and control are two different categorizations in how we define processes. This could allow us to retain our sense of free will in spite of current research as we can still be considered the guiding force in our actions, even if done so unconsciously.
Bondurant, Hannah, "Defending the Role of Unconscious Intentions: A Response to Wegner" (2012). Theses. 206.