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Thomas Nagel on Free Will

The question “What is action?” is much broader than the problem of free will, for it applies even to the activity of spider and to the peripheral, unconscious or subintentional movements of human beings in the course of more deliberate activity. It applies to any movement that is not involuntary. The question is connected with our theme because my doing of an act — or the doing of an act by someone else — seems to disappear when we think of the world objectively. There seems no room for agency in a world of neural impulses, chemical reactions, and bone and muscle movements. Even if we add sensation, perceptions, and feelings we don’t get action, or doing — there is only what happens. … I think the only solution is to regard action as a basic mental or more accurately psychophysical category — reducible neither to physical nor to other mental terms.


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