Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 369–376

Time for consciousness: intention and introspection



We assume that we can act—in at least some cases—by consciously intending to do so. Wegner (2002) appeals to empirical research carried out by Libet et al. (1983) to challenge this assumption. I argue that his conclusion presupposes a particular view of conscious intention. But there is an alternative model available, which has been developed by various writers in the phenomenological tradition, and most recently defended by Moran (2001). If we adopt this alternative account of conscious intention, Wegner’s argument no longer goes through, and we can retain the claim that our conscious intentions can give rise to action.


Action Intention Introspection - Libet Wegner 


  1. Armstrong, D. (1963). Is introspective knowledge incorrigible? The Philosophical Review, 72, 417–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Deeke, L., Scheid, P., & Kornhuber, H. H. (1969). Distribution of readiness potential, pre-motion positivity, and motor potential of the human cerebral cortex preceding voluntary finger movements. Experimental Brain Research, 7, 158–168.Google Scholar
  3. Dennett, D., & Kinsbourne, M. (1992). Time and the observer. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 15(2), 183–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Descartes, R. (1996). Meditations on first philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Kornhuber, H. H., & Deeke, L. (1965). Hirnpotentialandeerungen bei Wilkurbewegungen und passiv Bewegungen des Menschen: Bereitschaftspotential und reafferente Potentiale. Pflugers Archiv fur Gesante Psychologie, 284, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Libet, B. (1992). The neural time-factor in perception, volition, and free will. Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, 97, 255–272.Google Scholar
  7. Libet, B. (1996). Neural processes in the production of conscious experience. In M. Velmans (Ed.), The science of consciousness: psychological, neuropsychological, and clinical reviews (pp. 96–117). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Libet, B. (1999). How does conscious experience arise? The neural time factor. Brain Research Bulletin, 50(5/6), 339–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Libet, B. (2003). Can conscious experience affect brain activity? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10(12), 24–28.Google Scholar
  10. Libet, B., Gleason, C. A., Wright, E. W., & Pearl, D. K. (1983). Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness potential). Brain, 106, 623–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. MacKay, D. M. (1985). Do we ‘control’ our brains? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8, 546–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of perception. Trans. C. Smith. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Millikan, R. (1991). Perceptual content and Fregean myth. Mind C, 400, 439–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Moran, R. (2001). Authority and estrangement. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Sartre, J. P. (1958). Being and nothingness. Trans. H. E. Barnes. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Velmans, M. (2002). How could conscious experiences affect brains? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 9(11), 3–29.Google Scholar
  17. Wegner, D. (2002). The illusion of conscious will. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

Personalised recommendations