The Phenomenology of Agency and the Libet Results

Terry Horgan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


This chapter focuses on the phenomenal character of agentive experience-i.e., what it is like to experience oneself as the conscious author of one's behavior. Experiences with this distinctive kind of "what-it's-like-ness," have representational content-i.e., they represent oneself, to oneself, as willfully generating one's actions. This chapter argues that the representational content of act-commencement experience, as determined by the phenomenal character of such experience, is quite compatible with the possibility that action-triggering neural activity in the motor cortex is already occurring at a point in time prior to the onset of the experience of conscious act-commencement; hence, even if one were to grant that the work of Libet and others really does establish that the acts experienced as willfully produced are causally initiated by brain-events that occur prior to the experienced onset of act-commencement, this presumptive fact would not show that the experience of conscious will is an illusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationConscious Will and Responsibility
Subtitle of host publicationA Tribute to Benjamin Libet
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199864911
ISBN (Print)9780195381641
StatePublished - Nov 24 2010


  • Act-commencement
  • Agentive experience
  • Benjamin Libet
  • Conscious will
  • Representational content
  • What-it's-like-ness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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