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MORPHOLOGICAL INTENTIONALITY: TRACING THE UNCONSCIOUS TRAJECTORY OF FREE WILL

Neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet’s EEG experiments tracking the temporal occurrence of brain events leading to an endogenous voluntary action significantly demonstrated that the subject becomes conscious of her intention to act later than the neural activity in the brain signalingthe impending action. This finding led Libet to extrapolate that conscious will is not the bona fide causal source of voluntary acts-it merely serves to control the final motor outcome. All voluntary acts are causally originated in unconscious brain processes. The idea proposed in this short piece of work, however, is that many of our regular acts are done without online conscious thought in which case belief-desire states may well be operative subliminally. The attention needs to be directed to the causal role played by intentional states lying underneath the conscious threshold as a well-entrenched disposition. I argue these intentional states are morphological rather than unconscious in nature, borrowing the term from Horgan and Timmons.They contend in a different context that moral judgment (comparable to the volitional act) is a direct causal outcome of a set of embedded moral rules (comparable to automatized intentional states,) operating morphologically so as to lend their dispositional content to the final product without being represented as an occurrent intentional state although they are capable of so becoming.1

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