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The Illusion of Conscious Will$
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Daniel M. Wegner

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262534925

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262534925.001.0001

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Protecting the Illusion

Protecting the Illusion

The illusion of will is so compelling that it can prompt the belief that acts were intended when they could not have been. It is as though people aspire to be ideal agents who know all their actions in advance.

(p.137) 5 Protecting the Illusion
The Illusion of Conscious Will
Daniel M. Wegner
The MIT Press

This chapter looks at how people protect the illusion of conscious will. It seems that people do this because they have an ideal of conscious agency that guides their inferences about what they must have known and willed even when they perform actions that they did not intend. The chapter analyzes the basic features of agency and then looks at how people fill in these features based on their conception of the ideal. The expectancy that intention must be there, even when the action is wholly inscrutable, can lead people to infer that they intended even the most bizarre of actions. The chapter then turns to the circumstance that first prompts the protection of the idea of will: unconscious action. When people's actions are caused unconsciously, they depend on their ideal of agency to determine what they have done.

Keywords:   conscious will, illusion, conscious agency, intention, actions, unconscious action

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