Neural Mechanisms of Decision Making and the Personal Level

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Can findings from psychology and cognitive neuroscience about the neural mechanisms involved in decision-making can 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 paper argues that both objections would be weakened by the discovery of empirical generalisations 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 are 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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry
EditorsK. W. M. Fulford, Martin Davies, George Graham, John Z. Sadler, Giovanni Stanghellini, Richard G. T. Gipps, Tim Thornton
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780199579563
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NameInternational Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry
PublisherOxford University Press


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