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Volition and Agency

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Louise White.

THIS TALK IS A JOINT ZANGWILL/CHAUCER CLUB SEMINAR TO BE HELD AT 15 CHAUCER ROAD CAMBRIDGE. PLEASE NOTE: THIS PARTICULAR LECTURE WILL TAKE PLACE ON THURSDAY INSTEAD OF THE USUAL FRIDAY.

Human action can be considered in two very different ways. One approach views actions as the consequence of conscious thought by rational agents. This view dominates in philosophy. In contrast, neurobiology views actions as the consequence of neural activity in motor areas of the brain. The key point on which they differ seems to be the relation between the processes that generate action, and the experience of conscious intention. Historically, psychology has vacillated between these two views, or retreated to behaviourist positions that simply dismiss the concept of volition. In this talk, I will investigate the neurobiological mechanisms underlying voluntary action generation, focussing particularly on the brain processes underlying decisions about what to do, and when to do it, in situations where no external stimulus guides these decisions. I will then consider the relation between voluntary action generation and the sense of agency. Finally, I will consider whether the human experience of voluntary action could have any functional role in neural control of behaviour, or is purely epiphenomenal.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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