Self-agency and mental casualty



Publication Details

Gallagher, S. (2008). Self-agency and mental casualty. In K. S. Kendler and J. Parnas (Eds.), Philosophical Issues in Psychiatry : Explanation, Phenomenology, and Nosology (pp. 286-312). United States: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9780801889837


In this chapter, I explore one small corner of the concept of mental causality and how it relates to questions about free will and agency. It's the corner where discussions about mind-body interactions and epiphenomenalism take place. My basic contention is that these discussions are framed in the wrong terms because they are infected by a certain conception of action that defines the question of mental causality in a classic or standard way. The standard way of asking the question is this: How does a mental event cause my body to do what it does? Setting the question in this way has consequences for ongoing interdisciplinary (psychological, neuroscientific, and philosophical) discussions of mental causation, as well as for the concepts of free will and agency. These concepts, in turn, have much to do with our understanding of what goes wrong in certain instances of psychopathology. Let me begin by setting the historical scene of what I am calling this standard way of understanding the problem of mental causality.

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