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date: 19 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Can findings from psychology and cognitive neuroscience about the neural mechanisms involved in decision-making tell us anything useful about the commonly-understood mental phenomenon of making voluntary choices? Two philosophical objections are considered. First, that the neural data is subpersonal, and so cannot enter into illuminating explanations of personal-level phenomena like voluntary action. Secondly, that mental properties are multiply realized in the brain in such a way as to make them insusceptible to neuroscientific study. The chapter argues that both objections would be weakened by the discovery of empirical generalizations connecting subpersonal properties with personal-level phenomena. It gives three case studies that furnish evidence to that effect. It argues that the existence of such interrelations is consistent with a plausible construal of the personal-subpersonal distinction. Furthermore, there is no reason to suppose that the notion of subpersonal representation relied on in cognitive neuroscience illicitly imports personal-level phenomena like consciousness or normativity, or is otherwise explanatorily problematic.

Keywords: decision-making, reward, prediction error, desire, subpersonal level, representation, information processing, reduction, mind-brain identity, reasons as causes

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