Article published in:The Emergence of Consciousness: A top-down, social phenomenon?
Edited by Jonathan Cole and Marcelo Dascal †
[Pragmatics & Cognition 18:3] 2010
► pp. 576–588
Action and awareness of agency
Comments on Chris Frith
Chris Frith’s target chapters contain a wealth of interesting experiments and striking theoretical claims. In these comments I begin by drawing out some of the key themes in his discussion of action and the sense of agency. Frith’s central claim about conscious action is that what we are primarily conscious of in acting is our own agency. I will review some of the experimental evidence that he interprets in support of this claim and then explore the following three questions about the awareness of agency:(1) Should we locate the phenomena that Frith describes as awareness of agency at the personal level or at the subpersonal level?(2) If we are indeed operating at the personal level, then should we think about awareness of agency as something we experience, or as something that we believe?(3) If awareness of agency is to be understood experientially, is there what some authors have called “a sense of agency”, where this is understood to be a distinctive type of experience that accompanies agentive behaviors but is absent in behaviors that are not under the control of the agent?In what follows I argue that awareness of agency should be located at the personal level, and that we should think of it as something we experience . But I will reject the claim that there is a distinctive sense of agency.
Keywords: agency, conscious experience, personal/subpersonal levels, reasons for action, sense of agency
Published online: 12 April 2011
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