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Effective Intentions: The Power of Conscious Will Reprint Edition

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199764686
ISBN-10: 0199764689
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Editorial Reviews


"Effective Intentions is indisputably the most careful and sophisticated discussion to date of the relevance of neuroscience for our understanding of willing, and especially, whether that willing is free or conscious. It is necessary reading for anyone interested in the neuroscience of agency and free will, and it deserves to be widely read by both philosophers and neuroscientists."--Manuel Vargas, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

About the Author

Alfred R. Mele is William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (November 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199764689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199764686
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,426,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Considerable media attention has recently been devoted to attacks on the power of conscious will based on the neurophysiological experiments of Benjamin Libet and the psychological observations of Daniel Wegner. The "willusionists", as they have been dubbed by philosopher Eddy Nahmias, argue that conscious will has no causal power, but is merely an illusory impression constructed after the event.

Alfred Mele is a philosopher specializing in free will, who is well informed about the neurophysiological and psychological literature. In this book he convincingly refutes the claims of the willusionists, showing that their most striking claims depend on naïve conceptions of free will and human agency. His focus is mainly philosophical, but he does also address difficulties at the level of the scientific experiments.

This is an important contribution to the debate. It is not light bedtime reading for the casual reader, but will repay serious study.
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As a bit of a neophyte to matters concerning the philosophy of the mind, I found this book a bit challenging to work through. However, the content is clear, reflective, and mind expanding.

The overarching theme of the book seems to be an analysis of what is meant conceptually when we refer to "intentions" (conscious or otherwise). Mele handled the material adeptly. I found the illustrations and thought experiments he provides to be particularly helpful in understanding difficult concepts. For example, the idea that subjects of Libet-like studies may well be consciously priming themselves to make a decision when they say "now" in their minds or how we may well intend to do things unconsciously, such as utilize turn signals when driving. Mele also elucidates interesting insights into concepts surrounding consciousness, such as considerations on the timing of conscious awareness, as well as providing a particularly clear description of the terms surrounding the conflicting opinions concerning free will.

In addition to the conceptual analysis of intention and consciousness, Mele also takes to task the carelessness with which some thinkers have approached data obtained from Libet style experiments. Given Mele's analysis, it seems unambiguously clear that the conclusions to be drawn from the results of such experiments are clearly ambiguous.

All in all, this is probably not a recommended book for a beginner, but it is a good read for those who possess some familiarity with the subject matter or are willing to stick it out. I spent a lot of time reading the same sentences over and over and over again before the content really sank in, but that mostly had to do with my lack of familiarity with the topic.
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