• Rethinking Conscious Agency

            Our project uses the tools of philosophy and psychology to investigate the nature, structure, and significance of conscious agency. This site provides information about team members, project workshops and conferences, upcoming talks, open postdoc positions, and publications.        

Principal Investigator
Dr. Joshua Shepherd

Host institution
Universitat de Barcelona

Start: 1 May 2018
End: 30 April 2023

This project investigates the nature, structure and significance of conscious agency along three related fronts:

First, although philosophers have emphasized the importance of various aspects of consciousness for human agency, work on conscious agency within philosophy remains unsystematic. Cross-talk regarding the phenomena at issue hampers progress, as does a lack of significant attention to the richness of the phenomenology that accompanies human agency. In response, we are working to develop a new account of the nature and mechanistic underpinnings of agentive phenomenology.

Second, although psychology’s recent progress in explaining agentive capacities – e.g., metacognition, cognitive control, attention, perception, decision-making, and motor acuity – is impressive, insights regarding the importance of consciousness for these capacities need to be made explicit, and leveraged to construct a next generation model of action control. In response, we are working to map the phenomenology of agency onto the structure and function of action control capacities, with special focus on three areas: the role of explicit knowledge and its signatures within consciousness, the function of phenomenal states for cognitive control resource allocation, and the relationships between conscious intentions and perceptual feedback.

Third, we deploy the tools of experimental philosophy – that is, the use of psychological methods to study philosophical questions – in two areas. First, we aim to experimentally investigating agentive phenomenology. Second, we are exploring the practical and moral significance of conscious agency, by determining what aspects of conscious agency drive commonsense moral thinking about responsibility for action.

Research Team

<center>Joshua Shepherd</center>

Joshua Shepherd

Principal Investigator
Research Professor, University of Barcelona
Assistant Professor, Carleton University
<center>Adrian John Tetteh Alsmith</center>

Adrian John Tetteh Alsmith

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Barcelona
<center>Wayne Christensen</center>

Wayne Christensen

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Barcelona


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This project is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Starting Grant ReConAg 757698.