Publication Details

Gallagher, S. (2013). Ambiguity in the sense of agency. In A. Clark, J. Kiverstein and T. Vierkant (Eds.), Decomposing the Will (pp. 118-135). United States: Oxford University Press.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9780199746996


In a variety of recent studies the concept of the sense of agency has been shown to be phenomenologically complex, involving different levels of experience, from the basic aspects of sensory-motor processing (e.g., Farrer et al. 2003; Tsakiris and Haggard 2005; Tsakiris, Bosbach, and Gallagher 2007) to the higher levels of intention formation and retrospective judgment (e.g., Pacherie 2006, 2007; Stephens and Graham 2000; Synofzik, Vosgerau, and Newen 2008; Gallagher 2007, 2010). After summarizing this complexity, I will argue, first, that the way that these various contributory elements manifest themselves in the actual phenomenology of agency remains ambiguous, and that this ambiguity is in fact part of the phenomenology. That is, although there surely is some degree of ambiguity in the analysis of this concept, perhaps because many of the theoretical and empirical studies cut across disciplinary lines, there is also a genuine ambiguity in the very experience of agency. Second, most studies of the sense of agency fail to take into consideration that it involves more than simply something that happens in the head (mind or brain), and specifically that it has a social dimension.