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The experience of agency and the self

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
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The main focus of this thesis is the conscious experience that attends the actions that we perform as agents. The ‘feeling of doing’ is widely acknowledged to be an essential component of our mental life, yet there has been little effort to study it seriously up until fairly recently. The first half of the thesis is devoted to a discussion of some metaphysical issues surrounding the veridicality of the experience of agency. I start by evaluating the arguments of ‘agent-causationists’ who, within the more general framework of their libertarian theory of free will, purport to demonstrate that the experience of agency is veridical and can be directly translated into a naturalistically plausible metaphysics. Next, I turn to the ‘illusion ists’ who attempt to show that, in one way or another, the experience of agency is misleading. I argue that both camps fail to make their case effectively. The second half of this thesis is concerned with the phenomenology of the experience of agency. I sketch an account of its content and go on to argue that, described as such, it may be viewed as a rich source of self-knowledge that plays an indispensable role in the creation and development of our self-concept.
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