Conscious Agency and the Preconscious/Unconscious Self

  • Max Velmans


We habitually think of our Self as a conscious agent operating largely in terms of how we consciously experience those operations. However, psychological and neuroscientific findings suggest that mental operations that seem to be initiated by the conscious Self are largely preconscious or unconscious. In this paper I examine how these aspects of the Self and its operations combine in the exercise of free will and suggest that the conscious wishes, choices and decisions that we normally associate with “conscious free will” result from preconscious processes that provide a form of “preconscious free will”. The conscious experiences associated with other so-called conscious processing in complex tasks such as speech perception and production, reading and thinking also result from preconscious processing—which requires a more nuanced analysis of how conscious experiences relate to the processes with which they are most closely associated. We need to distinguish processes that are conscious (a) in the sense that we are conscious of them, (b) in the sense that they result in a conscious experience and (c) in the sense that consciousness plays a causal role in those processes. We also examine how consciousness enables real-ization: it is only when one experiences something for oneself that it becomes subjectively real. Together, these findings suggest that Self has a deeper architecture. Although the real-ized aspects of the Self are the consciously experienced aspects, these are just the visible “tip” of a far more complex, embedding preconscious/unconscious ground.


Speech Perception Speech Production Conscious Experience Lateralized Readiness Potential Phenomenal Consciousness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer India 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, GoldsmithsUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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