Participants and Spectators
April 20, 2010 9:37 AM Subscribe
Suppose ... that the right picture is that characters who take themselves to be deliberating and initiating various deeds come to look like somewhat pathetic figures frantically pulling various wires and pushing various buttons which are, unknown to them, not connected to some moving machine they are riding, on a course completely indifferent to anything such characters pretend to do (or much more indifferent than the riders believe) ... The first thing to say is that this is not an academic exercise. The problem I want to raise has become especially interesting in the last hundred and fifty years or so, because, under the influences, first, of the so-called “Masters of Suspicion” – Marx, Nietzsche and Freud – and in our own day under the influence of everything from structuralism and various “anti-humanisms” in European philosophy to evolutionary biology and the neurosciences (experimental results, brain imaging, Benjamin Libet’s famous experiment and so forth), many seem to have concluded that in an ever expanding range of cases, it only seems to us that we are “running any show” as conscious agents in any even metaphysically modest sense; it only seems that we could be actually leading our lives.
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