Daniel M. Wegner

The late Daniel M. Wegner was Professor of Psychology at Harvard University.

  • The Illusion of Conscious Will, New Edition

    The Illusion of Conscious Will, New Edition

    Daniel M. Wegner

    A new edition of Wegner's classic and controversial work, arguing that conscious will simply reminds of us the authorship of our actions.

    Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of free will versus determinism. With the publication of The Illusion of Conscious Will in 2002, Daniel Wegner proposed an innovative and provocative answer: the feeling of conscious will is created by the mind and brain; it helps us to appreciate and remember our authorship of the things our minds and bodies do. Yes, we feel that we consciously will our actions, Wegner says, but at the same time, our actions happen to us. Although conscious will is an illusion (“the most compelling illusion”), it serves as a guide to understanding ourselves and to developing a sense of responsibility and morality. Wegner was unable to undertake a second edition of the book before his death in 2013; this new edition adds a foreword by Wegner's friend, the prominent psychologist Daniel Gilbert, and an introduction by Wegner's colleague Thalia Wheatley.

    Approaching conscious will as a topic of psychological study, Wegner examines cases both when people feel that they are willing an act that they are not doing and when they are not willing an act that they in fact are doing in such phenomena as hypnosis, Ouija board spelling, and dissociative identity disorder.

    Wegner's argument was immediately controversial (called “unwarranted impertinence” by one scholar) but also compelling. Engagingly written, with wit and clarity, The Illusion of Conscious Will was, as Daniel Gilbert writes in the foreword to this edition, Wegner's “magnum opus.”

    • Paperback $30.00 £25.00
  • The Illusion of Conscious Will

    The Illusion of Conscious Will

    Daniel M. Wegner

    A novel contribution to the age-old debate about free will versus determinism.

    Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of free will versus determinism. In this book Daniel Wegner offers a novel understanding of the issue. Like actions, he argues, the feeling of conscious will is created by the mind and brain. Yet if psychological and neural mechanisms are responsible for all human behavior, how could we have conscious will? The feeling of conscious will, Wegner shows, helps us to appreciate and remember our authorship of the things our minds and bodies do. Yes, we feel that we consciously will our actions, Wegner says, but at the same time, our actions happen to us. Although conscious will is an illusion, it serves as a guide to understanding ourselves and to developing a sense of responsibility and morality.

    Approaching conscious will as a topic of psychological study, Wegner examines the issue from a variety of angles. He looks at illusions of the will—those cases where people feel that they are willing an act that they are not doing or, conversely, are not willing an act that they in fact are doing. He explores conscious will in hypnosis, Ouija board spelling, automatic writing, and facilitated communication, as well as in such phenomena as spirit possession, dissociative identity disorder, and trance channeling. The result is a book that sidesteps endless debates to focus, more fruitfully, on the impact on our lives of the illusion of conscious will.

    • Hardcover $40.00 £32.00
    • Paperback $29.95 £25.00

Contributor

  • Distributed Cognition and the Will

    Distributed Cognition and the Will

    Individual Volition and Social Context

    Don Ross, David Spurrett, Harold Kincaid, and G. Lynn Stephens

    Philosophers and behavioral scientists discuss what, if anything, of the traditional concept of individual conscious will can survive recent scientific discoveries that human decision-making is distributed across different brain processes and through the social environment.

    Recent scientific findings about human decision making would seem to threaten the traditional concept of the individual conscious will. The will is threatened from “below” by the discovery that our apparently spontaneous actions are actually controlled and initiated from below the level of our conscious awareness, and from “above” by the recognition that we adapt our actions according to social dynamics of which we are seldom aware. In Distributed Cognition and the Will, leading philosophers and behavioral scientists consider how much, if anything, of the traditional concept of the individual conscious will survives these discoveries, and they assess the implications for our sense of freedom and responsibility. The contributors all take science seriously, and they are inspired by the idea that apparent threats to the cogency of the idea of will might instead become the basis of its reemergence as a scientific subject. They consider macro-scale issues of society and culture, the micro-scale dynamics of the mind/brain, and connections between macro-scale and micro-scale phenomena in the self-guidance and self-regulation of personal behavior.

    Contributors George Ainslie, Wayne Christensen, Andy Clark, Paul Sheldon Davies, Daniel C. Dennett, Lawrence A. Lengbeyer, Dan Lloyd, Philip Pettit, Don Ross, Tamler Sommers, Betsy Sparrow, Mariam Thalos, Jeffrey B. Vancouver, Daniel M. Wegner, Tadeusz W. Zawidzki

    • Hardcover $15.75 £12.99
    • Paperback $8.75 £6.99