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The Illusion of Conscious Will

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2005

    Insightful !

    Daniel M. Wegner¿s book is a lucid, entertaining exploration of one of the most important issues in philosophy and psychology: the existence of will. Extreme determinists contend that people are mechanisms programmed to do what they do and that any notion of freedom or choice is merely illusory. Their antagonists, the proponents of free will, say that people consciously freely choose to act (at least some of the time). Wegner falls into the former camp. Conscious will, he says, is an illusion. But in a wide-ranging ramble that touches on law and the courts, spirit possession, hypnotism, neuroscience, phantom limbs and Ouija boards among other things, he builds a strong anecdotal case that this illusion is essential to being human. The book is curiously desultory, now citing some experiment on the brain in deadly earnest academic language, and then tossing off a flip remark about a popular stage magician or an apparently very clever horse. We find it both entertaining and elucidating, although it may not always rise to the most demanding standards of philosophical evidence and argument.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2002

    Profoundly Thought Provoking

    This book does a phenomenal job of taking a fresh, highly-informed look at the feeling of conscious will. Wegner clearly states his conclusion that careful examination of scientific findings exposes our perception of conscious will as an illusion, and he builds his argument by thoughtfully addressing a wide range of compelling evidence (ranging from discussion of Ouija boards, hypnotism, and spirit possession to laboratory investigation and cases of neurological impairment). He handles this difficult task thoroughly while writing in a manner that is accessible and often quite humorous. This book performs a truly remarkable feat¿it crafts a view of determinism that can be compatible with current perspectives in cognitive science, philosophical considerations, and our own introspective knowledge that we feel as though we are consciously willing our behavior. It is a must read for anyone interested in the debate of free will vs. determinism and anyone curious about the scientific study of consciousness or philosophy of mind.

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