•  3115
    Consciousness, free will, and moral responsibility: Taking the folk seriously
    Philosophical Psychology 28 (7): 929-946. 2015.
    In this paper, I offer evidence that folk views of free will and moral responsibility accord a central place to consciousness. In sections 2 and 3, I contrast action production via conscious states and processes with action in concordance with an agent's long-standing and endorsed motivations, values, and character traits. Results indicate that conscious action production is considered much more important for free will than is concordance with motivations, values, and character traits. In sectio…Read more
  •  2066
    Consciousness and morality
    with Neil Levy
    In Uriah Kriegel (ed.), Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    It is well known that the nature of consciousness is elusive, and that attempts to understand it generate problems in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, psychology, and neuroscience. Less appreciated are the important – even if still elusive – connections between consciousness and issues in ethics. In this chapter we consider three such connections. First, we consider the relevance of consciousness for questions surrounding an entity’s moral status. Second, we consider the relevance of consciousne…Read more
  •  945
    X - Phi and Carnapian Explication
    Erkenntnis 80 (2): 381-402. 2015.
    The rise of experimental philosophy has placed metaphilosophical questions, particularly those concerning concepts, at the center of philosophical attention. X-phi offers empirically rigorous methods for identifying conceptual content, but what exactly it contributes towards evaluating conceptual content remains unclear. We show how x-phi complements Rudolf Carnap’s underappreciated methodology for concept determination, explication. This clarifies and extends x-phi’s positive philosophical impo…Read more
  •  916
    Conscious Control over Action
    Mind and Language 30 (3): 320-344. 2015.
    The extensive involvement of nonconscious processes in human behaviour has led some to suggest that consciousness is much less important for the control of action than we might think. In this article I push against this trend, developing an understanding of conscious control that is sensitive to our best models of overt action control. Further, I assess the cogency of various zombie challenges—challenges that seek to demote the importance of conscious control for human agency. I argue that thoug…Read more
  •  825
    The contours of control
    Philosophical Studies 170 (3): 395-411. 2014.
    Necessarily, if S lacks the ability to exercise control, S is not an agent. If S is not an agent, S cannot act intentionally, responsibly, or rationally, nor can S possess or exercise free will. In spite of the obvious importance of control, however, no general account of control exists. In this paper I reflect on the nature of control itself. I develop accounts of control ’s exercise and control ’s possession that illuminate what it is for degrees of control —that is, the degree of control an a…Read more
  •  811
    The apparent illusion of conscious deciding
    Philosophical Explorations 16 (1). 2013.
    Recent work in cognitive science suggests that conscious thought plays a much less central role in the production of human behavior than most think. Partially on the basis of this work, Peter Carruthers has advanced the claim that humans never consciously decide to act. This claim is of independent interest for action theory, and its potential truth poses a problem for theories of free will and autonomy, which often take our capacity to consciously decide to be of central importance. In this art…Read more
  •  680
    Conscious Action/Zombie Action
    Noûs 50 (2): 419-444. 2016.
    I argue that the neural realizers of experiences of trying are not distinct from the neural realizers of actual trying . I then ask how experiences of trying might relate to the perceptual experiences one has while acting. First, I assess recent zombie action arguments regarding conscious visual experience, and I argue that contrary to what some have claimed, conscious visual experience plays a causal role for action control in some circumstances. Second, I propose a multimodal account of the ex…Read more
  •  584
    Scientific Challenges to Free Will and Moral Responsibility
    Philosophy Compass 10 (3): 197-207. 2015.
    Here, I review work from three lines of research in cognitive science often taken to threaten free will and moral responsibility. This work concerns conscious deciding, the experience of acting, and the role of largely unnoticed situational influences on behavior. Whether this work in fact threatens free will and moral responsibility depends on how we ought to interpret it, and depends as well on the nature of free and responsible behavior. I discuss different ways this work has been interpreted…Read more
  •  580
    Causalism and Intentional Omission
    American Philosophical Quarterly 51 (1): 15-26. 2014.
    It is natural to think that at root, agents are beings that act. Agents do more than this, however – agents omit to act. Sometimes agents do so intentionally. How should we understand intentional omission? Recent accounts of intentional omission have given causation a central theoretical role. The move is well-motivated. If some form of causalism about intentional omission can successfully exploit similarities between action and omission, it might inherit the broad support causalism about intent…Read more
  •  516
    The folk psychological roots of free will
    In David Rose (ed.), Experimental Metaphysics, Bloomsbury Academic. 2017.
    First, what are the psychological roots of our concept of free will? Second, how might progress on the first question contribute to progress regarding normative debates about the proper concept of free will? In sections two and three I address the first question. Section two discusses recent work in the experimental philosophy of free will, and motivates the study I report in section three. Section four reflects on the second question in light of the reported results. To preview, the results sug…Read more
  •  487
    Why Block Can't Stand the HOT
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 20 (3-4): 183-195. 2013.
    Ned Block has recently pressed a new criticism of the higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness. HOT proponents have responded in turn. The exchange affords a chance to find some clarity concerning the essential commitments of HOT, as well as a chance to find clarity on the issues that divide Block and HOT proponents. In this paper I discuss the recent exchange, and I draw some lessons. First, I side with HOT proponents in arguing that new criticism presents no new problem for HOT. Seco…Read more
  •  439
    Argumente für die naturaliste Erkenntnistheorie
    In Stefan Tolksdorf & Dirk Koppleberg (eds.), Erkenntnistheorie: Wie und Wozu?, Mentis Publishers. pp. 245-274. 2015.
  •  388
    Halfhearted Action and Control
    Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 4. 2017.
    Some of the things we do intentionally we do halfheartedly. I develop and defend an account of halfheartedness with respect to action on which one is halfhearted with respect to an action A if one’s overall motivation to A is weak. This requires getting clear on what it is to have some level of overall motivation with respect to an action, and on what it means to say one’s overall motivation is weak or strong. After developing this account, I defend the claim that one key functional expression o…Read more
  •  365
    The Moral Insignificance of Self‐consciousness
    European Journal of Philosophy 24 (4). 2016.
    In this paper, I examine the claim that self-consciousness is highly morally significant, such that the fact that an entity is self-conscious generates strong moral reasons against harming or killing that entity. This claim is apparently very intuitive, but I argue it is false. I consider two ways to defend this claim: one indirect, the other direct. The best-known arguments relevant to self-consciousness's significance take the indirect route. I examine them and argue that in various ways they …Read more
  •  362
    In a recent paper, Gray, Knickman, and Wegner present three experiments which they take to show that people perceive patients in a persistent vegetative state to have less mentality than the dead. Following on from Gomes and Parrott, we provide evidence to show that participants' responses in the initial experiments are an artifact of the questions posed. Results from two experiments show that, once the questions have been clarified, people do not ascribe more mental capacity to the dead than to…Read more
  •  342
    Determinism and attributions of consciousness
    Philosophical Psychology 33 (4): 549-568. 2020.
    The studies we report indicate that it is possible to manipulate explicit ascriptions of consciousness by manipulating whether an agent’s behavior is deterministically caused. In addition, we explore whether this impact of determinism on consciousness is direct, or mediated by notions linked to agency – notions like moral responsibility, free will, deliberate choice, and sensitivity to moral reasons. We provide evidence of mediation. This result extends work on attributions of consciousness and …Read more
  •  301
    Deciding as Intentional Action: Control over Decisions
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (2): 335-351. 2015.
    Common-sense folk psychology and mainstream philosophy of action agree about decisions: these are under an agent's direct control, and are thus intentional actions for which agents can be held responsible. I begin this paper by presenting a problem for this view. In short, since the content of the motivational attitudes that drive deliberation and decision remains open-ended until the moment of decision, it is unclear how agents can be thought to exercise control over what they decide at the mom…Read more
  •  298
    Agentive phenomenology
    In Uriah Kriegel (ed.), Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    In this chapter we reflect on questions about the nature and sources of agentive phenomenology – that is, the set of those experience-types associated with exercises of agency, and paradigmatically with intentional actions. Our discussion begins with pioneering work in psychology and neuroscience that dates to the early 80s (section 1). As we will see, much of the current work on agentive phenomenology in both psychology and philosophy draws motivation from this work, and the questions it raises…Read more
  •  282
    Minimizing harm via psychological intervention: Response to Glannon
    Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (10): 662-663. 2014.
    In a recent discussion, Walter Glannon discusses a number of ways we might try to minimize harm to patients who experience intraoperative awareness. In this response I direct attention to a possibility that deserves further attention. It might be that a kind of psychological intervention – namely, informing patients of the possibility of intraoperative awareness and of what to expect in such a case – would constitute a unique way to respect patient autonomy, as well as minimize the harm that typ…Read more
  •  282
    My topic is the intelligent guidance of action. In this paper I offer an empirically grounded case for four ideas: that [a] cognitive processes of practical reasoning play a key role in the intelligent guidance of action, [b] these processes could not do so without significant enabling work done by both perception and the motor system, [c] the work done by perceptual and motor systems can be characterized as the generation of information specialized for action guidance, which in turn suggests th…Read more
  •  267
    Intending, believing, and supposing at will
    Ratio 31 (3): 321-330. 2018.
    In this paper I consider an argument for the possibility of intending at will, and its relationship to an argument about the possibility of believing at will. I argue that although we have good reason to think we sometimes intend at will, we lack good reason to think this in the case of believing. Instead of believing at will, agents like us often suppose at will.
  •  212
    Free Will and Consciousness: Experimental Studies
    Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2): 915-927. 2012.
    What are the folk-conceptual connections between free will and consciousness? In this paper I present results which indicate that consciousness plays central roles in folk conceptions of free will. When conscious states cause behavior, people tend to judge that the agent acted freely. And when unconscious states cause behavior, people tend to judge that the agent did not act freely. Further, these studies contribute to recent experimental work on folk philosophical affiliation, which analyzes fo…Read more
  •  190
    The Experience of Acting and the Structure of Consciousness
    Journal of Philosophy 114 (8): 422-448. 2017.
    I offer an account of the experience of acting that demonstrates how agentive aspects of experience associated with the execution of intentions are richly integrated with perceptual aspects associated with parts of action taking place in the publicly observable world. On the view I elucidate, the experience of acting is often both an engagement with the world and a type of intimate acquaintance with it. In conscious action the agent consciously intervenes in the world and consciously experiences…Read more
  •  179
    Neuroscientific threats to free will
    In Meghan Griffith, Kevin Timpe & Neil Levy (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Free Will, Routledge. forthcoming.
  •  176
    Kriegel on the Phenomenology of Action
    Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia 7 (2): 264-272. 2016.
    : I focus on Uriah Kriegel’s account of conative phenomenology. I agree with Kriegel’s argument that some conative phenomenology is primitive in that some conative phenomenal properties cannot be reduced to another kind of property. I disagree, however, with Kriegel’s specific characterization of the properties in question. Kriegel argues that the experience of deciding-and-then-trying is the core of conative phenomenology. I argue, however, that the experiences of trying and acting better occup…Read more
  •  174
    Skill and Sensitivity to Reasons
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 12 (3): 669-681. 2021.
    In this paper I explore the relationship between skill and sensitivity to reasons for action. I want to know to what degree we can explain the fact that the skilled agent is very good at performing a cluster of actions within some domain in terms of the fact that the skilled agent has a refined sensitivity to the reasons for action common to the cluster. The picture is a little bit complex. While skill can be partially explained by sensitivity to reasons – a sensitivity often produced by rationa…Read more
  •  152
    Why does the mind wander?
    Neuroscience of Consciousness. forthcoming.
    I seek an explanation for the etiology and the function of mind wandering episodes. My proposal – which I call the cognitive control proposal – is that mind wandering is a form of non-conscious guidance due to cognitive control. When the agent’s current goal is deemed insufficiently rewarding, the cognitive control system initiates a search for a new, more rewarding goal. This search is the process of unintentional mind wandering. After developing the proposal, and relating it to literature on m…Read more
  •  146
    Situationism and Agency
    with Alfred R. Mele
    Journal of Practical Ethics 1 (1): 62-83. 2013.
    Research in psychology indicates that situations powerfully impact human behavior. Often, it seems, features of situations drive our behavior even when we remain unaware of these features or their influence. One response to this research is pessimism about human agency: human agents have little conscious control over their own behavior, and little insight into why they do what they do. In this paper we review classic and more recent studies indicating “the power of the situation,” and argue for …Read more
  •  130
    The Shape of Agency offers interlinked explanations of the basic building blocks of agency, as well as its exemplary instances. The first part offers accounts of a collection of related phenomena that have long troubled philosophers of action: control over behaviour, non-deviant causation, and intentional action. These accounts build on earlier work in the causalist tradition, and undermine the claims made by many that causalism cannot offer a satisfying account of non-deviant causation, and the…Read more