Thursday, November 15, 2007

Something to Look Forward To

The Situationist is starting a series of posts grounded on a law review article on consciousness and free will (which are theoretically related to corrections sentencing) that starts with this:

. . . Daniel Wegner concludes, in a book that brings together generations of experimental research on the felt experience of human will, that “conscious will is an illusion. It is an illusion in the sense that the experience of consciously willing an action is not a direct indication that the conscious thought has caused the action.” Two other leading researchers of the will, [Situationist contributor] John Bargh and Tanya Chartrand, have made an extremely compelling, if unsettling, case that “most of a person’s everyday life is determined not by [her] conscious intentions and deliberate choices but by mental processes that are put into motion by features of the environment and that operate outside of conscious awareness and guidance”—a thesis that they acknowledge is “difficult . . . for people to accept.”

In part for that reason, we want to be certain that the claim is not misconstrued. None of the researchers in this field of social science have concluded, nor do we, that the “conscious will” is purely and totally an illusion. What is asserted—and what researchers have demonstrated—is that the experience of will is far more widespread than the reality of will. Wegner calls the latter the empirical will and argues that our perceived will is often an unreliable and misleading basis for understanding our behavior. The experience of will occurs often without empirical will, and thus creates the illusion of will. Moreover, it contributes to the illusions of choice, preference, and, more generally, dispositionism.

I’ll be checking in regularly and alert you to anything that really spizzes me, but, given what you know about my spizzing, you might be interested in something I miss so feel free to do your own checking as well.

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