Voluntary Action: Brains, Minds, and Sociality / Edition 2

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We all know what a voluntary action is--we all think we know when an action is voluntary, and when it is not. First, there has to be some wish or goal, then an action designed to fulfill that wish or attain that goal. This standard view of voluntary action is prominent in both folk psychology and the professional sphere (e.g., the juridical) and guides a great deal of psychological and philosophical reasoning. But is it that simple though? For example, research from the neurosciences has shown us that the brain activation required to perform the action can actually precede the brain activation representing our conscious desire to perform that action. Only in retrospect do we come to attribute the action we performed to some desire or wish to perform the action.
This presents us with a problem- -if our conscious awareness of an action follows its execution, then is it really a voluntary action?
The question guiding this book is: What is the explanatory role of voluntary action and, are there ways that we can reconcile our common-sense intuitions about voluntary actions, with the findings from the sciences?
This is a debate that crosses the boundaries of Philosophy, Neuroscience, Psychology and Social Science. This book brings together some of the leading thinkers from these disciplines to consider this deep and often puzzling topic. The result is a fascinating and stimulating debate that will challenge our fundamental assumptions about our sense of free-will.
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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Michael Joel Schrift, D.O., M.A.(University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine)
Description: This is an excellent new book based on a conference on Voluntary Action: Joint (Ad-) Ventures at the Interface of Nature and Culture, which was held in Germany in March 2000. The book covers a wide range of disciplines including cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and social science aspects of action, agency, and intention. Written and edited by scholars in the field, this book is a valuable contribution to neuroscience and philosophy.
Purpose: The purpose of the book, according to the editors, is to attempt to establish bridges linking the various disciplines that deal with the topic of voluntary action. This book is a preliminary step toward that goal and the editors and authors have succeeded in producing an outstanding and thought-provoking work.
Audience: The intended audience is neuroscientists, philosophers, psychologists, and social scientists. Attorneys, psychiatrists, and graduate students in the above disciplines would also enjoy this book.
Features: The book features 379 pages divided into five sections and 16 chapters. Section 1 reviews the psychology of voluntary action. Section 2 reviews the cognitive neuroscientific aspects of voluntary action. Section 3 addresses philosophical accounts of voluntary action. Section 4 covers the legal aspects, in terms of criminal law with an interesting chapter on criminal responsibility. This section also covers the socio-anthropological aspects of voluntary action. The final section attempts to synthesize these diverse disciplines. Each chapter concludes with relevant and timely references. There are also helpful author and subject indexes at the end of the book.
Assessment: This is an outstanding new book with a multidisciplinary approach to voluntary action. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in fascinating area.

4 Stars! from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198527541
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/1/2003
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Basel

Director of the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research

University of Bremen

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Table of Contents

Voluntary action: brains, minds, and sociality 3
Sect. I Introduction - Between motivation and control: psychological accounts of voluntary action 17
1 How do we know about our own actions? 21
2 Acquisition and control of voluntary action 34
3 Voluntary action and cognitive control from a cognitive neuroscience perspective 49
4 Voluntary action from the perspective of social-personality psychology 86
Sect. II Introduction - Between cortex and the basal ganglia: neuroscientific accounts of voluntary action 111
5 The interaction of cortex and basal ganglia in the control of voluntary actions 115
6 How do we control action? 133
7 Self-generated actions 153
Sect. III Introduction - Between epiphenomenalism and rationality: philosophical accounts of voluntary action 167
8 Mental causation: the supervenience argument and the proportionality constraint 172
9 The explanatory role of consciousness in action 188
10 How voluntary are minimal actions? 202
11 Rational and irrational intentions: an argument for externalism 220
Sect. IV Introduction - Between the normative and the symbolic: juridical and anthropological accounts of Voluntary Action 233
12 First-person understanding of action in criminal law 238
13 Voluntary action and criminal responsibility 263
14 Culture and human development in a theory of action beliefs 281
Sect. V Introduction - Questioning the multidisciplinary field 303
15 A polytheistic conception of the sciences and the virtues of deep variety 307
16 A view from elsewhere: the emergence of consciousness in multidisciplinary discourse 323
Author Index 361
Subject Index 375
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