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Conscious Thoughts and Attributions of Mental Agency:

An Affordance Model

Summary

Humans not only have the ability to consciously experience their own thoughts, but, in doing so, can
also attribute agency to these thoughts. I shall call this act attribution of mental agency. The analysis
of this issue in philosophy is replete with conceptual and phenomenological disagreement. In the
phenomenological domain, while some people refer to their own thoughts as something they actively
do, others refer to them as something that merely happens in their mind. In the conceptual domain,
the aforementioned phenomenological disagreement makes it very difficult to offer a correct
characterization of the way in which humans end up attributing thoughts agentially to themselves. In
this paper, I argue that the phenomenology of thoughts should be fundamentally characterized as
passive, i.e. as not involving any type of first-order feeling of mental agency. But, at the same time, I
claim that all thoughts of normal adult humans are phenomenologically characterized by a ubiquitous
affordance of agentive attributability, i.e. the possibility of a thought to be internally or externally
attributed in terms of agency. In contrast with current available views, the affordance model defended
here takes attributions of mental agency to be neither the mere product of the endorsement of a full
experience of self-agency accompanying thoughts (bottom-up view), nor the product of mere
retrospective judgements without any type of experiential basis (top-down view). Rather, attributions
of mental agency are the result of the integrative interaction between second-order explanations and
the endorsement of a first-order affordance of attributability contained in the basic phenomenology of
thoughts. Thus, by adopting an integrative posture, the affordance model of agentive mental
attributions should be able to gain better dialectal traction than either of the bottom-up or thetop-
down views in current literature.

Acknowledges: I would like to thank Prof Dr Thomas Fuchs, Dr Tom McClelland, and Dr Leo Tarasov for useful
comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be
understood backwards
Soren Kierkegaard

1. From Self-Attributions of Bodily Movements to Self-Attributions of Thoughts

When Agustins body (or parts of it) moves, there is a basic sense in which one may ask
whether he is aware of this episode occurring intentionally or unintentionally. Agustin may become
aware of his body moving intentionally when, for example, kicking a ball during a football game. In
contrast, he may become aware of his body as moving unintentionally when, while trying to kick the
ball, being pushed away by one of the members of the rival team. Ignoring certain complexities, we
can say that philosophers often agree that what distinguishes the former case from the latter is the
existence of a distinctive self-attribution of bodily agency1, i.e. the act of attributing the initiation or
authorship of a certain bodily movement to oneself. While in the former case Agustin attributes the
authorship of the relevant bodily movement (kicking) to himself, in the latter case he does not. In
Bayne and Pacheries (2007) words, Agustins kicking counts as a case of agentive awareness
because it involves Agustin becoming aware of himself as an agent of the relevant bodily movement.

The dominant view in the discussion about attributions of bodily agency rests on two
phenomenological assumptions: first, that there is a crucial difference between what it is like to move
intentionally and what it is like to move unintentionally, and second, that the phenomenology of
bodily actions is fundamentally active. Mere bodily activities, such as being pushed away, spams,
reflexes, and so on, are phenomenologically distinguishable from bodily actions (goal-directed bodily
movements) because they feel different at the most basic experiential level2. Thus, certain bodily
movements are self-attributed as actions of oneself because they feel that way. The basis in which the
act of self-attributing a bodily movement is built upon is usually characterised as a sensorial
component contained in the representational structure of certain bodily movements3 (see Gallagher,
2000; 2007a; 2007b; Frith, 1992; Bayne & Pacherie, 2007; Bayne, 2011, among many others). Here


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This notion is labelled in different ways by different authors: Attribution of Agency (Stephens & Graham, 2000), the
sense of agency (de Vignemont & Fourneret 2004; Gallagher 2000, 2014; Marcel 2003; Peacocke 2003); control
consciousness (Mandik 2010), and action consciousness (Prinz 2007). The relevant issue is that these authors make
reference to the existence of a distinctive attribution that distinguishes voluntary from involuntary bodily movements
although they might disagree about the nature and architecture of this attribution.
2
For a recent critique of this view on agentive bodily awareness, see Mylopoulos (2015).
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This view is expressed by Bayne (2011) when he claims that: Just as we have sensory systems that function to inform us
about the distribution of objects in our immediate environment, damage to our limbs, and our need for food, so, too, we
have a sensory system (or systems), whose function it is to inform us about facets of our own agency (p. 356).

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self-attributions of bodily agency arise as a matter of endorsing this first-order experiential
information contained in certain bodily movements. The primary ingredient of attributions of bodily
agency is an actual experience or sense of agency that accompanies certain bodily movements.
Premised on this idea, the architecture of self-attributions of bodily agency is predominantly
characterized as having two levels, one more fundamental than the other:

The vehicles of agentive self-awareness are often more primitive than judgments. Think of what
it is like to push a door open. One might judge that one is the agent of this action, but this
judgment is not the only way in which ones own agency is manifested to oneself; indeed, it is
arguably not even the primary way in which ones own agency is manifested to oneself. Instead,
one experiences oneself as the agent of this action (Bayne & Pacherie, 2007, p. 476)

This bottom-up view suggests that, on a first-order level, a sensorial experience of agency
embedded into the phenomenal structure of certain bodily movements (bodily actions) represents the
subject as the author of the movement. This experience would figure in the natural phenomenology
of motor actions. On a second-order level, more robust higher-order judgements of self-agency are
based on the first-order experience of self-agency. It follows that the representational content of these
more robust judgements of bodily self-agency is acquired from the representational content of the
first order sensorial experiences of agency (Gallagher, 2007a, p. 348).

Transferring a number of ideas from the above debate into the domain of conscious thinking,
recently, a number of authors have suggested that we can also talk about self-attributions of agency
in the case of thoughts (Frith, 1992; Graham & Stephens, 1994; Campbell, 1999; 2002; Stephens &
Graham, 2000; Gallagher, 2000; 2013; 2014; Proust, 2009; Vosgerau & Voss, 2014; among many
others). A self-attribution of mental agency refers to the act of attributing a thought to oneself as one
being its author or initiator (Stephens & Graham, 2000; Gallagher, 2000; 2007a; De Hann & de
Bruin, 2010; Vosgerau & Voss, 2014, among many others). Some of the most popular models aimed
at explaining this brand of self-attribution involve the establishing of a direct parallelism between
motor actions and thoughts (see Feinberg, 1978; Frith, Blackemore & Wolpert, 2000; Campbell,
1999; Ito, 2008). However, it has been argued that such a parallelism leads to a number of intractable
problems (Proust, 2009; Vosgerau & Voss, 2014; see section 4 of this article). In fact, it is not even
clear whether the just aforementioned dominant view of bodily agency can be transferred into the
domain of conscious thinking without serious conceptual and phenomenological complications.

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One of the most serious difficulties for the establishment of any type of parallelism between
motor actions and thoughts is that, in the latter case, we are not referring to sensorial experiences but,
rather to cognitive experiences, and it is unclear whether we can use any model that strongly relies on
the sensorial nature of bodily actions to explain how we self-attribute agency to our thoughts
(Synofzik et al. 2008). A second crucial difficulty is that unlike the bodily case there seems to be
no agreement about how to best characterize the primary phenomenology of thoughts in light of the
issue about agency. While some people refer to their own thoughts as something they do (active
phenomenology), others report them as something that merely happens to them (passive
phenomenology). This situation contrasts with the bodily case, where bodily actions are always
referred to as something people do (otherwise they would be mere involuntary bodily movements).
This phenomenological disagreement brings us to a conceptual problem. Again, unlike the case of
motor actions, there is no dominant view about the best way to characterize the production of our
attributions of mental agency. Certainly, an appropriate clarification of the phenomenology of
thoughts would lead to the clarification of this conceptual problem. Finally, the whole debate about
agency for thoughts is intensified in light of the phenomenology of psychotic symptoms such as
thought insertion where patients attribute the agency of first-personally accessible thoughts to
external agents of different nature4 (see Mullins & Spence, 2003).

All these difficulties justify a specific treatment of the issue about agentive attributions of
thought as different from the discussion regarding attributions of bodily agency. The primary aim of
this paper is to engage further with all these problems in order to outline an alternative view on the
way adult humans attribute agency to their own phenomenally available thoughts. After arguing that
the phenomenology of thinking should be characterized as fundamentally passive, and that current
explanatory models of attributions of self-agency are inadequate, I suggest that all thoughts of normal
adult humans are phenomenologically characterized by a ubiquitous affordance of agentive
attributability, i.e. the possibility of a thought to be self or externally attributed in terms of agency. In
contrast with current available views, according to the affordance model, attributions of mental
agency are the product of neither the endorsement of a full experience of self-agency that
accompanies thoughts (bottom-up view), nor of retrospective judgements without phenomenal basis
(top-down view); rather; they are the result of the interaction between second-order explanations and


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All these discussions should be distinguished from the metaphysical debate about whether thoughts are mental actions
(see Peacocke, 2003; OBrien & Soteriou, 2009). This latter debate is about what thoughts are, while ours concerns the way
in which thoughts are experienced and how we can self-attribute those thoughts. These are not metaphysical matters.
Rather, they concern different issues about what it is like to experience thoughts.

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the endorsement of first-order phenomenal features of phenomenally available thoughts. In this
sense, agentive mental attributions are a potential act that is embedded in the most basic
phenomenology of thoughts.

2. Experiencing and Self-Attributing Thoughts: A Land of Disagreements

2.1. The Phenomenal Character of Thoughts: A Liberal Stance

Consciousness involves a number of different types of sensory conscious states. We see, hear,
smell, taste, and touch things; we also have bodily and affective states of different kind. All these
kinds of conscious states enjoy a distinctive phenomenal character, i.e. there is something that it is
like to be in those states or, in other words, they feel in a distinctive way (Nagel, 1974). However,
consciousness also includes cognitive experiences, like thoughts. It is an ongoing debate whether
thoughts enjoy a distinctive non-sensory and purely cognitive phenomenal character5. As explained
by Bayne and Montague (2011), advocates of a liberal view accept that the domain of
phenomenology can be extended beyond the sensory and claim that conscious thoughts possess a
distinctive and proprietary cognitive phenomenology6. As Strawson (1994) claims:

[T]he experience of seeing red and the experience of now seeming to understand this very
sentence, and of thinking that nobody could have had different parents ... all fall into the vast
category of experiential episodes that have a certain qualitative character for those who have
them as they have them (p. 194).

In contrast, those defending a conservative view claim that thinking has no distinctive non-
sensory phenomenal character (Nelkin, 1989; Tye, 1995)7. Non-radical conservatives claim that
thoughts might have a certain kind of quasi-phenomenal character acquired in virtue of the sensory
states with which the relevant thoughts are associated 8 . For example, when having a visual


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For a complete summary and discussion of the many positions on this issue, see Bayne & Montague (2011).
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Pitt (2004) suggests that: in addition to arguing that there is something it is like to think a conscious thought, I shall also
argue that what it is like to think a conscious thought is distinct from what it is like to be in any other kind of conscious
mental state, and that what it is like to think the conscious thought that p is distinct from what it is like to think any other
conscious thought (p. 2).
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Bodily sensations and perceptual experiences are prime examples of states for which there is something it is like to be in
them. They have a phenomenal feel, a phenomenology, or, in a term sometimes used in psychology, raw feels. Cognitive
states are prime examples of states for which there is not something it is like to be in them, of states that lack a
phenomenology (Braddon-Mitchell & Jackson 2007, p. 129).
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About this, Carruthers (2005) claims that: our thoughts arent like anything, in the relevant sense, except to the extent that
they might be associated with visual or other images or emotional feelings, which will be phenomenally conscious by virtue
of their quasi-sensory status (pp. 138-139).

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experience of a dog one might think that is a pretty ugly dog; this latter state is a type of thought
and from a non-radical conservative point of view - it would acquire some kind of phenomenal
character only in virtue of it being related to the visual experience of the dog. In contrast, radical
conservatives suggest that there is no such thing as a purely and distinctive cognitive phenomenology
whatsoever and that thoughts are conscious in a non-phenomenal way.

In the rest of this article, I assume a liberal reading of the phenomenology of thinking,
accepting that episodes of conscious thinking have a distinctive cognitive phenomenal character over
and above the objects they represent and the sensory modalities with which they might be associated
(see Siewert, 1998; Pitt, 2004; Proust, 2009; Strawson, 1994; 2003; Horgan & Tienson, 2002;
Zahavi, 2005). After all, it seems plausible to claim that there is a basic sense in which what it is like
to think that P feels distinctively different from what it is like to see, smell, or touch P, independently
of the properties of P and the sensory modalities through which P is given.

2.2. Modalities of Mental-Self Attribution: Subjectivity, Ownership, and Agency

There are different ways in which we can attribute the thoughts we experience to ourselves;
the most fundamental way in which we can do this is by referring to them as mental states to which
we simply have first personal access, i.e. mental states that we are simply undergoing or that are
happening in our subjective space. This is to recognize that the way I access to my own thoughts is
exclusive in the sense that others cannot access to them in the same way. The idea here is that there is
something that is like for me to experience thoughts and it is in this sense that I cannot be wrong
about whose thoughts they are; they are my thoughts because I am the one aware of their occurrence;
I am the one undergoing them. Period. This seems to be the most primitive modality of self-
attribution entailed by the phenomenally conscious character of thoughts. Lets call this the
attribution of subjectivity.

A number of authors have characterized the notion of mental self-attribution as the idea that
my thoughts are my own because I can experientially claim them to be in my stream of consciousness
(Gallagher, 2000; 2014; de Hann & de Bruin, 2010; Zahavi, 2005; Grnbaum & Zahavi, 2013). The
idea is that thoughts are mine because they feel as given in my stream of consciousness or in my
mind. To put it another way, the claim is that I feel that I, so to speak, own the location or space in
which the phenomenally available thoughts are given to me. This formulation can be observed in
Grnbaum and Zahavis (2013) discussion of delusions of thought insertion:

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When a subject who experiences thought insertions or delusions of control reports that
certain thoughts are not his thoughts, that someone else is generating these thoughts, he
is also indicating that these thoughts are present, not over there in someone elses
head, but within his own stream consciousness, a stream of consciousness for which he
claims ownership (p. 235, my emphasis)

Rather than thinking of the stream of consciousness as the location of a thought, it is more
plausible to think of it as the way in which we represent the occurrence of phenomenally available
thoughts, or as the way in which phenomenally conscious episodes simply occur. This idea is often
referred as the unity of consciousness, and all what it entails is that, when I focus my attention on
them, phenomenally available experiences seem to be given as in a unified stream (Bayne &
Chalmers, 2003; Bayne, 2010). The claim implies neither that mental states are experientially given
to me as in my stream nor that one has direct experiential access to this stream as the location of
ones thoughts. Arguably, here the conclusion that mental states are experientially given to me as in
my own stream requires a further inferential, namely, these experience are given as in a stream; I
only have one stream of consciousness, and that stream is my own (see Vosgerau & Voss, p. 535).
Thus, the notion of a stream of consciousness would be related to the role of attention in organizing
phenomenally available experiences. However, this would imply that we do not have a full
experience of the stream of consciousness, which is what the aforementioned characterization
requires. In any case, it is important to note that it is one thing to say that the mental states I have
phenomenal access to are given as in a stream when I focus my attention to them, and quite another
is to say that those experiences are given to me as in a stream that is felt as my own. One does not
seem to have direct phenomenal access to ones stream of consciousness as such; rather, our
phenomenally available experiences are represented as being given in a stream.

Coming back to main aim of this section, it is crucial to distinguish attributions of subjectivity
from attributions of mental ownership. While the former refers to the self-attribution of a mental
state as something I am undergoing, the latter refers to the attribution of a mental state undergone by
me as my own state (see Zahavi & Parnas, 1998; 2011; Gallagher & Zahavi, 2007). Often, the
notions of subjectivity and ownership are conflated under the claim that every mental state that is
phenomenally available to me is experientially given to me as my own mental state (Zahavi &
Kriegel, 2015). On this formulation, there would exist an experiential sense of mineness attached to
every single mental state present in ones stream of consciousness (Zahavi, 2005; Gallagher &

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Zahavi, 2008; Grnbaum & Zahavi, 2013). An attribution of ownership would arise as the mere
endorsement of this phenomenal feature of mental states (Zahavi, 2005).

However, it is important to note that subjective phenomenal availability (subjectivity) does


not necessarily entail mental ownership. The phenomenology of delusions of thought insertion
provides prima facie evidence that subjectivity and ownership are two separable types of self-
attributions, and that one does not necessarily imply the other9. Thought insertion patients are
phenomenally aware of an alien thought that does not feel as theirs: the subject experiences thoughts
which are not his own intruding into his mind. The symptom is not that he has been caused to have
unusual thoughts, but that the thoughts themselves are not his (Wing et al., 1983; also see Mullins &
Spence, 2003). Indeed, one of the most puzzling aspects of this delusion is that some phenomenally
available thoughts occurring within the subjects stream of consciousness are not felt as being the
subjects own thoughts (Bortolotti & Broome, 2008). If anything, thought insertion shows that
certain thoughts lack the alleged sense of ownership and therefore, that attributions of subjectivity do
not automatically entail a person self-attributing a thought as her own thought (Martin & Pacherie,
2013). In fact, thought insertion patients end up ascribing the alien thoughts present in their own
stream of consciousness to external agents of different nature, such as persons (e.g. TV celebrities,
relatives; see Frith, 1992), electronic devices (e.g. TVs, radios; see Spence et al. 1997), collective
groups (e.g. aliens, the government, secrets societies; see Payne, 2013), surrounding inanimate
entities (e.g. houses, trees; see Saks, 2007), among many others (see also Mellor, 1970; Mullins &
Spence, 2003)10. Thought insertion shows that it is one thing to merely undergo a thought, and quite
another are the ways in which I can do this (as mine, as not mine, and so on).

In relation to this, Martin and Pacherie (2013) have recently suggested that independent
evidence for the separability of attributions of subjectivity and ownership can be found in the
phenomenology of thought broadcasting, another positive symptom of psychosis (Schneider, 1959).
Patients suffering from this delusion experience their own thoughts as escaping silently from their
mind/head; these thoughts may or may not be available to other people (Pawar & Spence, 2003, p.
288). The authors suggest that: in thought broadcasting, therefore, patients have introspective access
to their broadcasted thoughts, but these thoughts are not experienced as localized within their own
psychological boundaries (Martin & Pacherie, 2013, p. 113). In other words, the broadcasted


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Paper 4 of this compilation engages further with this issue.
10
As a patient reports: Thoughts are put into my mind like Kill God. Its just like my mind working, but it isnt. They
come from this chap, Chris. They are his thoughts (quoted in Frith, 1992, p.66).

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thoughts are not experienced themselves as exclusively in my private subjective space. From this,
Martin and Pacherie conclude that thought broadcasting shows that one could have an attribution of
mental ownership without necessarily having an attribution of subjectivity.

However, it is not entirely clear whether we can draw such a conclusion from cases of
thought broadcasting. Someone might reply that this conclusion is not guaranteed because the
experience of my own thoughts being broadcasted is still part of my subjective field of awareness; it
is still an experience that I am undergoing, so an attribution of subjectivity might be preserved.
Perhaps, an additional distinction is in place: what this delusion shows is that the sense of privacy
usually attached to my phenomenally available mental states can get disrupted. In a certain way, this
delusion would also show a disruption (in terms of permeability) in the sense of ego-boundaries, as
subjects have first personal awareness of mental states that are beyond their private psychological
boundaries.11 A safer conclusion in this context would be that attributions of ownership seem to
necessarily depend on attributions of subjectivity, but the reverse is not the case. It seems
phenomenologically impossible to attribute a thought as my own thought without this thought being
something I am subjectively undergoing. However, it is possible to self-attribute a thought as
something I am undergoing without feeling it is my own thought, as cases of thought insertion
suggest.

Some people might resist this idea by appealing to cases of thought withdrawal where
patients claim that some of their own thoughts have been stolen or removed from their mind/head by
external agents (Schneider, 1959; Koehler, 1979). It might be concluded that these patients are able
to self-attribute the thoughts in question in terms of ownership (their own thoughts), but not in terms
of subjectivity (not undergone by them). However, it is not clear whether this conclusion is
guaranteed. For example, we might suggest that this line of thought misses the temporal aspect of the
formation of this delusion and that thought withdrawal does not show that it is possible to have an
attribution of ownership without an attribution of subjectivity. The idea would be that the main
phenomenological datum in these cases is that patients experience a certain thought ceasing in their
heads which may be interpreted as the thought being removed or stolen by some external agent


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The concept of ego-boundaries refers to a phenomenological demarcation between me and not-me that characterizes
our mental life (Parnas & Handest, 2003). About this, Freud (1930) observes that: Pathology has made us acquainted with a
great number of states in which the boundaries lines between ego and the external world become uncertain or in which they
are actually drawn incorrectly. There are cases in which part of a persons own body, even portions of his mental life-his
perceptions, thoughts, and feeling- appear alien to him and as not belonging to his own ego (p. 35)

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(Boydell et al. 2007). Patients would add the stealing part of the delusion as an explanation for the
ceasing of a certain thought. Thought withdrawal would refer to a thought that was in the patients
head and that is not longer in it. Thus, the reported attribution of ownership would be about a thought
that was had by the patient and, when she had it, subjectivity and ownership happened
simultaneously.

A possible reply to this would be to say that patients experience their own thoughts as being
undergone by whoever it is that withdraws them. However, first, it is not clear whether this is
actually the case and, second, the experience of the thought undergone whomever it is that withdraws
them is still an experience undergone by the patient, so a certain attribution of subjectivity might be
retained. The crucial issue here is that it is not clear whether the external agent is part of the
representational content of the experience leading up to the formation of this delusion. Certainly, a
clarification of this latter issue might contribute to a better understanding of the debate whether
subjects can attribute ownership to thoughts without attributing subjectivity. In any case, all I wish to
show here is that subjectivity and ownership are two separable modalities of self-attribution and that
it is plausible to say that the latter depends on the former, but the reverse is not the case.

Having clarified these modalities of self-attribution of thoughts, I shall understand self-


attributions of mental agency as the act of attributing the property of being authored by one to a
thought phenomenally available in ones stream of consciousness. It seems plausible to suggest that,
in a certain way, this modality of attribution seems to be the most demanding in introspective terms,
as it seems to require the act of making sense of causal information about the occurrence of
phenomenally available thoughts (Campbell, 1999). Another crucial issue is that cases of thought
insertion show that thoughts to which one has first-personal phenomenal access can be attributed to
external agents. For example, as a patient reports: the thoughts of Eammon Andrews come to my
mind. There are no other thoughts there, only his. He treats my mind like a screen and flashes his
thoughts onto it like you flash a picture (Mellor, 1970, p. 17). Therefore, it is possible to distinguish
between self-attribution and external-attributions of mental agency. Any account of the formation of
attributions of mental agency should be able to explain these two modalities. In the rest of this paper,
I will focus on this modality of mental self-attribution.

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2.3. The Phenomenological Passivity of Thoughts

Once we distinguish attributions of mental agency from other modalities of mental attribution,
the next step is to engage with the discussion about how to best characterize the most basic
phenomenology of thoughts in light of the question about agency. A natural way of approaching this
issue is by examining the way we commonly refer to our thoughts in everyday life. Here, things get
considerably complicated, as there is an apparent disagreement about the way in which different
subjects do this. In the bodily case, it is agreed that attributions of bodily agency are fundamentally
based on experiences with active phenomenology, and this is also displayed in the forms in which
people refer to their own bodily actions in everyday life. However, the problem in the context of
thinking is that:

Some people see their successive thoughts as something they are acting upon in their
contents and even in their formal relations []. Others, however, take thinking to occur
mostly outside of awareness. Beliefs and desires occur to us; reasoning does not seem to
leave room for choices or stylistic variations. Thoughts seem sometimes to be entertained
and to determine our behaviours with no associated subjective awareness, let alone any sense
of agency (Proust, 2009, p. 253-254, my emphasis).

The primary issue here is that while some people tend to refer to their own thoughts in an
agentive way, others seem to do so in a fundamentally passive way12. Certainly, it is difficult to know
how to reconcile the agentive and the passive camp, as they seem to reflect two different intuitions
about the experiential nature of thinking, and such intuitions can be highly dependent on the cultural
context in which those cognitive experiences are reported. This is similar to, as Searle (1983) puts it
arguing for the existence of pains: if their existence is not obvious already, no philosophical
argument could convince one (p. 44). Nevertheless, it seems that this apparent phenomenological
disagreement can be solved13.


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Again, this phenomenological disagreement should not be confused with the metaphysical discussion about whether
thoughts are or are not mental actions (OBrien & Soteriou, 2009, p. 2). For people like OShaughnessy (2000), and
Peacocke (2007), thoughts are necessarily mental actions. In contrast, people like Strawson (2003) are skeptical about this
idea. Although related, the phenomenological and metaphysical debates are distinct. One can uncontroversially claim that
thoughts are actions while denying the existence of any impression of agency and the opposite position is also possible. In
this article I take these two disagreements to be argumentatively independent of one another.
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A preliminary alternative in this context is to claim that both camps get their phenomenology right. While defenders of a
cognitive agentive phenomenology experience their own thoughts in a certain way, advocates of a cognitive passive
phenomenology would experience them in a different way, and both camps would be accurately reporting what their own
thoughts are like. However, as McClelland (2015) rightly points out, although this kind of way out seems attractive -
because it makes everybody right - we should agree that it is a tremendously implausible alternative. The more likely

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Putting aside any type of conceptual pre-conceptions, we find that a careful examination of the
reports of our own thoughts reveals that they have a fundamentally passive phenomenology.
Experientially, our thoughts are something that happens, are undergone or are entertained, so
they should not be characterized as having an active phenomenology in the same way bodily actions
are claimed to have14. Some people might resist this claim by suggesting that thinking encompasses
all sort of cognitive experiences, such as judging, desiring, visualizing and so on, and that while
some of these experiences can feel passive (being the basis for a certain type of passive report), some
of them can be characterised as active or agentive from an experiential point of view (being the basis
for agentive types of report). However, this would imply that thoughts contain experiential
information about the type of thought they are, an idea that sounds very odd. Thoughts do not contain
information about their specific typology; rather, they seem to afford a certain typology depending
upon the context of the other mental activities in which they are brought about. Thus, even those
thoughts reported by subjects using apparent agentive clauses may be interpreted as fundamentally
passive from an experiential point of view.

Consider the cases that Strawson (2003) comments on here:

Thought, it seems, is often a matter of things just happening, and the passive or non-
agentive nature of the ordinary experience of thought is vividly expressed in many of our
idioms: 'I realized that p', 'It struck me that q', 'I had an idea', 'I noticed that r', 'Then I
understood', 'The scales fell from my eyes', 'The thought crossed my mind'; 'I saw the
answer',' It suddenly came to me', 'It occurred to me - it dawned on me', 'I remembered that
s', 'It hit me that t', 'I found myself thinking that u', 'v!-of course-how stupid of me!' (p. 230,
my emphasis)

The way in which these different types of thoughts are reported in everyday life seems to leave
little room for agentive considerations from an experiential point of view. In all these cases, thoughts
are a matter of spontaneous appearance in ones stream of consciousness where no clear agentive
experiential elements can be identified. It is highly dubious to claim that, while thinking, one
becomes aware of ones own thoughts as something that one is voluntarily producing. Rather, it
seems more plausible to characterize thoughts as something that happens to us. As de Hann and de


situation is that both camps enjoy the same type of experience but at least one of them is mixing things up while reporting
thoughts. Here I shall explore a more plausible alternative.
14
I would like to thank Prof Dr Thomas Fuchs for insightful conversations about this issue.

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Bruin (2010) rightly point out the default [phenomenological] mode in thinking is precisely not an
explicit and wilful generation of thoughts (p. 383).

Now consider some ostensively more agentive cases:

'I've worked it out,' 'I judged that p,' 'my considered judgement is that p,' 'after reflection I
endorsed the view that q,' 'I reasoned that r,' 'I decided that s,' 'I came to the conclusion that
t,' 'I assented to the proposition that u,' 'I speculated, hypothesized, that v, and judged that if
v, then w,' 'I accept that x.' (Strawson, 2003, p. 230)

Here some people might suggest that experientially thoughts are a matter of action.
Judging that P, working out that P, reasoning that P, and so on, might express something that one is
doing in this sense. However, even though it is necessarily true that one is doing the judging,
reasoning, etc., it is just not the case that this feels as something that one is doing. Even in the above
instances it is not the case that thoughts enjoy an active phenomenology. When one claims that one is
judging that P, one seems to be taking a retrospective position towards a thought-content that appears
in ones field of awareness. Importantly, as proposed by Wegner (2002, p. 330), the tendency to
attribute control to oneself is a trait of personality that seems to extend further in some people than in
others. Consequently, these more agentive reports (considering, judging, reflecting, endorsing, etc.)
seem to reflect the adoption of certain attitudes or having a certain temperament towards certain
thought-contents present in a subjects stream of consciousness (and also in the context of other
accompanying mental activities). Thus, expressions such as working out that P, reasoning that P,
judging that P and so on, arise as a retrospective position taking towards a thought-content
phenomenally available in the subjects field of awareness.

Another way of arguing that thoughts have an active phenomenology is by suggesting that
attending a thought might imply some experiential impression of agency. However, this suggestion is
not very helpful, as the act of attending to the thought that P is different from the moment of
appearance of the thought that P in ones stream of consciousness. After all, we only attend to
thoughts that are already available in our stream of consciousness so attention has little to do with the
primary phenomenological way in which thoughts occur. Arguably, the act of attending to the
thought that P might feel agentive or active; it might have an active phenomenology if you prefer it.
However, this does not imply that the appearance of the thought that P in my stream of consciousness
feels active; the latter is still a passive experience.

13
A final possible reply is to suggest that thinking, like all our actions, is normally
accompanied by a sense of effort and deliberate choice as we move from one thought to the next
(Frith, 1992, p. 81). First, it is just not true that this alleged sense of effort accompanies all our
thoughts. Second, this suggestion makes a distinction between thinking and thought that is directly
analogous to the distinction between movements (thoughts) and execution of movements (thinking).
In fact, this confusion is present in a number of places in the literature about thought insertion for
example (e.g. see Stephens & Graham, 2000; Gallagher, 2004; 2007a; Proust, 2009; Langland-
Hassan, 2008). In the debate about bodily agency, attributions of self-agency are associated with
being the author of a certain bodily movement and with the execution of that bodily movement
(Tsakiris & Haggard, 2005; Moore et al. 2010). This distinction does not seem to apply to thoughts
because it is implausible to say that we execute thoughts in the same way we execute bodily
movements. In fact, it is not clear whether we can really draw a phenomenological distinction
between thinking and thought in this sense; if I say that I am executing the thought that P, the thought
that P is already present in my stream of awareness. It is true that when one experiences a thought,
one does not only have access to its content, but also to surrounding triggering information, although
this information may sometimes be difficult or even impossible to retrieve (Martin & Pacherie,
2013, p. 115). However, this does not imply that the process of thinking is phenomenologically given
as the execution of a thought, as something for us to claim mental agency of. In this context,
Vosgerau and Voss (2014) have recently claimed that what we call thinking are the many
mechanisms that bring about thoughts, and that these mechanisms have an automatic and subpersonal
nature.

However, there is a way in which one can think of thinking in a subjective way. Humans can
initiate specific trains of thoughts, and thoughts can often be retrospectively attributed as integrating
some of these trains. In making these attributions, subjects make connections between the relevant
thoughts and other contingent thoughts that are phenomenally available. Here, I shall reserve the term
thinking for the retrospective activity of keeping track of the relation between individual thoughts
and other thoughts that integrate the same train (see Bayne, 2013, p. 13-15). Arguably, here
thinking as I am defining it might be part of the explanation for attributions of self-agency for
individual thoughts (see for example, Campbell, 1999). I will leave tis suggestion until sections 4 to 6
below. Here I shall note only that, at least in the context of the present debate, it is more precise to
talk about attributions of agency for thoughts rather than attributions of agency for thinking. More
important is the fact that, in order to get at the notion of attributions of mental agency, most of the

14
time philosophers refer to notions like ownership, mineness, and agency indistinctively (see next
section). Often, authors switch from one to the other without really taking into account that those
terms seem to refer to distinct aspects of our mental life15.

Here, it is important to note that sometimes I might feel a sense of effort when initiating a
certain train of thoughts but this amounts to neither feeling a sense of effort for thoughts, nor feeling
an experience of agency for the specific train of thoughts. In these cases, I dont experience myself as
volitionally producing the individual thoughts that constitute the specific train; rather, I feel a kind
of concentration, a funnel to direct the upcoming thoughts in a certain direction (de Hann & de
Bruin, 2010, p. 383). When one says Shut up! Im thinking one still experiences the different
thoughts appearing in ones stream of consciousness passively, without any type of full experience of
self-agency attached to them. Then, when one finds the answer and says got it!, one still feels this
thought as passive. The fundamental distinction here is that a sense of effort might be a property that
can accompany the awareness of thinking something through, but this sense of effort should not be
confused with individual thoughts having an active phenomenology. In reality, most of the time, the
final outcome of a train of thought, which is an individual thought, is experienced passively and with
a subtle feeling of surprise or realization. Therefore, we should still think of thoughts as having a
passive phenomenology.

The point Ive made in this section is that there are no compelling phenomenological grounds
to claim that a full phenomenal experience of self-agency accompanies the occurrence of normal
thoughts, as it does in the case of bodily actions. Although the clauses that some people use to refer
to certain thoughts might make them look like something deliberate, the actual experience of having
thoughts is passive. Thoughts appear in our stream of consciousness like dandelions. From this point
of view, the phenomenology of thinking should be fundamentally defined as a passive kind of
phenomenology. Thoughts are primarily not experienced as actions, but as activities of our mind.
Here I agree with Strawson (2003, p. 231) when he claims that some of us are much more likely
than others to experience what he [Wegner, 2002] calls an emotion of authorship in reason, thought
and judgement. I never experience anything of the sort. Strawson seems to rightly capture the most
fundamental phenomenology of thoughts without being a victim a theoretical bias in favour of the
agentive analysis of the phenomenology of thoughts.


15
This issue is characteristic of Gallaghers and Zahavis treatment of the notion of self-attribution (Zahavi, 2005; 2013;
Gallagher, 2000; 2004; 2007; 2013; 2014).

15
However, our everyday intuitions about mental agency are very strong. Consider the case of
unbidden thoughts i.e. those thoughts that strike us unexpectedly out of the blue (Frankfurt, 1976,
p. 240). Although unbidden thoughts are not accompanied by any type of experience of self-agency
whatsoever, and that they are accompanied by a feeling of subtle surprise that distinguish them from
the normal passivity of thoughts, we do self-attribute unbidden thoughts in terms of agency. Another
case is daydreaming. While daydreaming, one is immersed in ones own thoughts without feeling any
type of experience of agency towards them, without feeling an active phenomenology. Yet one
retrospectively self-attributes those thoughts in terms of agency. These cases seem to suggest that one
might be able to make sense of certain thoughts in purely retrospective inferential terms, i.e. as a
stance taken towards passive thoughts not necessarily grounded in any type of experiential
information (as it seems to be the case with unbidden thoughts). This idea would be consistent with a
passive view of the phenomenology of thinking. However, as we will see in the following sections,
the view that attributions of mental agency are purely retrospective judgments assumes an incomplete
notion of the phenomenology of thoughts. So here we are left with a dilemma: On the one hand, our
thoughts are experienced passively. On the other hand, the passivity of our thoughts does not lead us
to doubt if it was really us who generated them (in normal conditions). Even though thoughts are
passive from an experiential point of view, it is possible to take an agentive stance towards them and
finally reach the belief that one is the author of at least some of the thoughts passively appearing in
ones stream of consciousness. The challenge is to reconcile our intuitions about being the authors of
our own thoughts with a passive phenomenology of thoughts. In other words, the issue is to make
sense of how we come to self-attribute thoughts in agentive terms even though they do not feel as
something we do.

3. Explaining Self-Attributions of Mental Agency

The aforementioned disagreement about the phenomenology of thoughts has led to a


conceptual debate about the best way to characterize the architecture of our attributions of mental
agency. In this context, two main rival approaches can be distinguished in the current literature, both
appealing to different characterizations of the phenomenology of thoughts.

3.1. The Top-Down Formulation

In their seminal work, Graham and Stephens (1994; see also Stephens & Graham, 2000)
develop a top-down view that characterizes attributions of mental agency primarily as the product of

16
reflective acknowledgment16. A subject reflectively realizes and is able to report that she is the author
of a certain thought because she retrospectively makes sense of its occurrence in agentive terms. The
agent of a certain thought arises in explaining the occurrence of that thought17. On this view, such an
explanation results from second-order inferences made on the basis of introspective self-observations
in light of the occurrence of phenomenally accessible thoughts. Strictly speaking, on this view self-
attributions of mental agency are the product of introspective mechanisms. Thus, given that the agent
of my phenomenally available thoughts is always an explanation for their occurrence, it is assumed
that this agent is not part of the representational content of thought. There would be nothing special
about the phenomenal character of thoughts that allow them to be self-attributed in agentive terms.
How exactly do people come to retrospectively self-attribute thoughts in terms of agency? Graham
and Stephens (1994a) suggest that:

[W]hether I take myself to be the agent of a mental episode depends upon whether I take the
occurrence of this episode to be explicable in terms of my underlying intentional states.
(Graham & Stephens, 1994a, p. 93)

On the top-down views the stress is put on whether we are reflectively able to makes sense of,
or explain, of our phenomenally available thoughts in terms of our background knowledge, beliefs,
desires, cultural ideas, etc., retrospectively, so:

[T]he subjects sense of agency regarding her thoughts likewise depends on her belief that
these mental episodes are expressions of her intentional states. That is, whether the subject
regards an episode of thinking occurring in her psychological history as something she does,
as her mental action, depends on whether she finds its occurrence explicable in terms of her
theory or story of her own underlying intentional states (Graham & Stephens 1994a, p. 102;
see also Stephens & Graham, 2000, p. 162).

This version of the top-down formulation of attribution of mental agency takes this modality of
self-attribution to depend on whether the subject can fit the thought-content in the picture he has of
herself. Thus the subject unproblematically accepts a thought as her action if, by her own lights, it
accords with her intentional psychology if roughly, it is the sort of thought [content] she would
expect herself to think given her picture of herself (Graham & Stephens 1994b, p. 103). This top-


16
Another popular top-down view about attributions of mental agency can be found in Campbell (1999). For recent top-
down versions of this modality of attribution, see Synofzik et al. (2008), and Vosgerau and Voss (2014).
17
In this sense, top-down views can be also called explanationist views.

17
down way of thinking about agentive mental self-attributions is based on Dennetts (1987, 1991) and
Flanagans (1992) account of self-referential narratives. Commenting on this, Graham & Stephens
(1994a) suggest that:

A favoured narrative strategy consists of explaining behavioural episodes, for example, as


expression of underlying, relatively persistent intentional states. Such explanations serve to
make sense of behaviour retrospectively and also provide the subject with a framework of
expectations regarding her future behaviours (p. 101).

It is suggested that the main role of self-referential narratives is to organize the multiplicity of
phenomenally available mental states we undergo into a coherent and more or less consistent
projectable pattern of thinking. Thus, we make sense of our own thoughts by explaining and
integrating them into this narrative pattern.

The top-down formulation of self-attributions of mental agency seems consistent with the
phenomenological picture of thoughts I have offered. However, as it stands, this view faces some
other difficulties. First, it is not clear whether we can really say that we introspectively agentially
attribute a certain thought depending on whether the thought-content in question is consistent with
the picture one has of oneself. Often I find myself having thoughts I can hardly make sense of as
being consistent with the picture I have of myself (e.g. Im not evil). On many occasions we find
ourselves saying things like I never thought I was capable of thinking something like that!.
However, this does not imply that we do not self-attribute these thoughts in agentive terms: we aer
still the author of those thoughts.

Often, the contents of our some of out thoughts strike us surprisingly, having an obscure,
illogical, irrational, or even silly nature. This dissociation between agentive mental self-attributions
and self-image-consistency is what makes, among other things, the experience of moral conflict
intelligible. In these cases, a person S with a certain image of himself IM finds himself thinking a
thought T that seems to go against IM. For S to have a moral conflict, S needs to self-attribute T even
though T goes against IM. In fact, one might say that, in these cases, this agentive self-attribution is
one of the most important conditions for the subjective experience of a moral conflict. It is the
agentive self-attribution of these thoughts that colours them with a subjective conflictive nature. So,
it is just not true that attributions of mental agency depend on whether thoughts can fit the picture one
has of oneself, or at least, not in the way in which this version of the top-down view of self-

18
attribution of mental agency requires. One does not need to be in agreement with the content of a
certain thought for one to self-attribute that thought in terms of agency.

A second related problem here is that it seems implausible to claim that we form a projectable
pattern of thinking, or at least, that we are aware of such patterns when self-attributing thoughts in
agentive terms, as the top-down view in question implies. Perhaps the creation of a projectable
pattern of behaviour is true for the bodily case, but it sounds odd in the case of thinking (even if we
talk about mental behaviour). In the latter case, one does not project a certain type of thought-
content in certain situations, one just thinks them. Arguably, self-narratives might help us to make
sense of phenomenally available thoughts retrospectively but not to project thought-patterns onto
future situations.

A third problem for the present formulation of agentive mental attributions is that, even if it is
able to explain self-attribution of thoughts (as a retrospective explanation), it is not be able to explain
the external attribution that characterizes thought insertion (Gallagher, 2004). Top-down defenders
suggest that, given that I cannot make sense of the causal path of a certain thought, the best
explanation available is that the thought must be someones else (Graham & Stephens, 2000).
However, the inability to track the causes of a certain thought would only entail that the thought
appeared out of the blue, not necessarily that someone else authored the thought. Sometimes, I might
be unable to track the causes of certain thoughts; however, this does not imply that I end up
externalizing my untraceable thoughts. There seems to be here an additional step that the top-down
formulation of attributions of mental agency cannot really explain. Finally, in relation to this last
point, a problem with the top-down formulation is that it tends to assume a very poor picture of the
phenomenology of thoughts. Our experience of thoughts does not only include thought-contents, it
also includes different possibilities of action (Ratcliffe, 2013). It seems that these possibilities given
in experience would play an important role in explaining the way we end up self-attributing certain
thoughts in agentive terms. Certainly, a plausible explanation for this modality of self-attribution
should take this into account. However, this is neglected by the top-down formulation of mental self-
attributions, I will address this further in section 5 while sketching my own alternative to the
problem.

19
3.2. The Bottom-Up Formulation

Some authors have formulated the notion of attributions of mental agency in a bottom-up
fashion, namely, as a matter of endorsing a certain experiential feature contained in the first-order
representational content of thoughts (Gallagher, 2000; 2007; 2012; Zahavi, 2005; Gallagher &
Zahavi, 2008)18. Here, a thought is agentially self-attributed because it simply feels as something one
is doing. This is not to deny that there are robust judgements of mental agency; rather, it is to claim
that higher-order attribution of ownership or agency may depend on the first-order experience of
ownership or agency (Gallagher, 2007, p. 348). For bottom-up defenders, there would be something
special in the phenomenology of agentive thoughts that would make us to self-attribute them in
agentive terms. More specifically, there would be a full experience of mental agency (sense of mental
agency) associated to the most basic phenomenology of thoughts. Thus, whereas top-down views
argue that attributions of mental agency only occur as a result of second-order judgements, bottom-
up approaches claim that these second-order attributions reflect an underlying first-order experience
of agency, namely, a sense of agency (De Hann & De Bruin, 2010, p. 375). If we track back the
causes of certain thoughts, it is because thoughts already feel that have been created by us. Therefore,
on bottom-up views, conscious attributions of mental agency are based on pre-reflective
representational information of phenomenally available thought prior to introspection, or, in other
words, thoughts would include representational information about their authors (Gallagher; 2007a;
2007b; 2012; 2014)19.

The first and most evident problem with this formulation of attributions of mental agency is
that it does not match the passive phenomenology of thoughts. Although it assumes a richer picture
of the phenomenology of thoughts, such a picture seems to be mistaken. This formulation requires a
full experience of agency figuring in the basic phenomenology of thoughts for us to self-attribute
thoughts agentially. In other words, this account requires experiencing thoughts as something one
does; it requires the phenomenology of thoughts to be active. However, this is not the case, as I
already shown in section 2.3. This basic misunderstanding originates in the argumentative context in
which bottom-up accounts of attributions of mental agency have emerged. Often, the treatment of
mental agentive attributions arises in the context of bottom-up characterizations of self-attributions of
bodily agency (Gallagher, & Zahavi, 2008; Gallagher 2000a, b, p. 204; 2005, p. 173; see De Hann &
De Bruin, 2010). Bottom-up formulations of attributions of mental agency are characterized by a lack

18
From this point of view, bottom-up views are endorsement views.
19
By pre-reflective I only mean prior to introspection.

20
of a specific and careful treatment of the issue as distinct from the case of bodily agency. On many
occasions, authors move freely from the bodily to the mental domain without any type of restriction
and, this lack of conceptual and phenomenological constraints seems to be one of the most
problematic methodological issues for the bottom-up formulation of attributions of mental agency.

This lack of specificity in the treatment of this issue about mental agency on bottom-up
formulation of this modality of self-attribution becomes evident in many places20:

Sense of self-agency: The pre-reflective experience that I am the one who is causing or
generating a movement or an action or thought process (Gallagher, 2012, p. 132, my
emphasis)

Sense of agency as I act or think, the pre-reflective experience that I am the cause/initiator
of my action or thinking, and have some control over it (Gallagher, 2014, p. 2, my emphasis).

The sense of agency refers to the sense of being the author or source of an action or thought
(Zahavi, 2005, p. 143, my emphasis)

Schizophrenics who suffer from these symptoms [delusions of thought insertion and alien
control] acknowledge that they are the ones that are moving, that the movements are
happening to their own body, or that thoughts are happening in their own stream of
consciousness, but they claim that they are not the agents of these movements or thoughts
when in fact they do cause the movement or thought (Gallagher 2007b, p. 36, my
emphasis).

Most of the time, bottom-up defenders treat thoughts in the same way they treat motor actions,
which seems to be the source of most of the problems for this position. A number of authors
associated with the current phenomenological tradition show a tendency to assume the same
phenomenological picture in the case of conscious thought as in the case of motor actions, and, based
on this, they tend to characterize attributions of mental agency in the same way they explain
attributions of bodily agency (Zahavi, 2005; Gallagher, 2000; 2007; 2014; Gallagher & Zahavi,
2008). This is a crucial mistake in the whole characterization of attributions of mental agency. As I
have already pointed out, such parallelism overlooks the passive phenomenology of thoughts as
radically different from the phenomenology of motor actions. In characterizing attributions of mental


20
See, for example, Gallagher (2014) section 1 and 2.

21
agency, bottom-up approaches neglect the fact that bodily actions and thoughts belong to different
domains of our mental life and that their phenomenologies are not really comparable. Given the
phenomenological passivity of thoughts, bottom-up approaches have serious problems in explaining
the type of representational content of thoughts that they require in order for the bottom-up
formulation to be true. These authors would need to argue for the existence of first-order thoughts
with representational content of the type I am the subject initiating this thought. However, this type
of representational content does not seem to be consistent with the passive phenomenology of
thinking that, in contrast, seems to suggest that the author of a thought it is not included in its
representational content at least, not as its agent (Vosgerau & Voss, 2014).

Finally, bottom-up formulations also face an explanatory problem. Even if we accept, for the
sake of the discussion, that thoughts are self-attributed on the basis of a first-order sense of agency
(active phenomenology), bottom-up views would not be able to explain how unbidden thoughts are
also agentially self-attributed if their phenomenology is passive, namely, if no experiential sense of
agency is associated with their occurrence. As Gallagher himself (2014) recognizes, a lack of sense
of agency is also found in cases of unbidden thoughts (p. 4). One might suggest that even though
they do not enjoy a sense of agency, we self-attribute unbidden thoughts as a matter of retrospective
explanation. However, this kind of explanation would fall into the bottom-up camp, and bottom-up
defenders would certainly not want to accept this. As it stands, it seems clear that the bottom-up
formulation cannot explain either normal cases of agentive self-attribution (phenomenological
problem), or cases of agentive self-attribution of unbidden thoughts (explanatory problem).

4. Attributions of Mental Agency, Psychosis, and Thinking as a Motor Process

The discussion about the nature of attributions of mental agency emerges in trying to account
for the type of breakdowns that characterise, among others, delusions of thought insertion. In fact,
with time, it became standard to explain this phenomenon in terms of problems with the attributions
of mental agency that patients make (Campbell, 1999; 2000; Frith, 1992; Graham & Stephens, 1994;
Stephens & Graham, 2000; Gallagher, 2000; 2004)21. In this context, popular explanations for the
production of normal and abnormal attributions of mental agency involve the idea that thoughts can
be understood as motor processes (Feinberg, 1978; Frith, 1992; Schmahmann, 2007; Ito, 2008). This
influential parallelism was pioneered by Hughlings Jackson (in Taylor, 1958), who claims that

21
The standard approach to thought insertion has been extensively criticised over the last fifteen years (Gallagher, 2000;
Bortolotti & Broome, 2009; Proust, 2008; Synofzik, Vosgerau, & Newen, 2008a; Synofzik, Vosgerau, & Newen, 2008b;
Vosgerau & Newen, 2007).

22
mental operations such as thoughts exploit the organization of the sensorimotor system. Influenced
by Jackson, Feinberg (1978, p. 638) comes to claim that If thought is a motor process heavily
dependent upon internal feedback, derangement of such feedback might account for many of the
puzzling psychopathological features of the psychosis of thinking [aka thought insertion].
However, even the origin of this parallelism is problematic as Feinberg himself recognizes that he
has not independent evidence in favour of this claim. As Proust (2009, p. 257) rightly points out
what [Feinberg] was offering was an evolutionary speculation rather than an empirically established
claim. In this section, I make evident the implausibility of this parallelism by focusing on one of its
most plausible versions, namely, Campbells (1999) model of thinking.

Assuming that thoughts are motor processes, John Campbell (1998; 1999; 2001; 2002)
develops a theory of attributions of mental agency based on the comparator model originally
developed to explain motor control (Frith, Blackmore & Wolpert, 2000). The idea is that every time a
subject thinks a thought P, the subject has previously formed an unconscious intention to think that
thought I-P22. After the different mechanisms involved in the production of P brings P into the
subjects stream of consciousness, P and I-P are compared. In the case where P and I-P match, the
subject would self-attributes P in terms of agency. However, if they do not match, the subject does
not have an impression of being the author of the phenomenally available thought, so she does not
self-attribute the thought in terms of agency. Campbells proposal implies that attributions of
subjectivity are always preserved, whereas attributions of mental agency can be disrupted, as, for
example, in cases of thought insertion.

This proposal relies on a belief-desire thought-causation framework. A motor command is


needed to activate each thought token: the background beliefs and desires cause the motor
instruction to be issued, which causes the occurrent thought (Campbell 1999, p. 617). In turn, this
would explain how the ongoing stream of occurrent thoughts can be monitored and kept on track to
finally match the thoughts with their correspondent intentions (p. 617). Although this model is
undeniably influential, Campbells proposal faces a number of phenomenological, conceptual,
explanatory, and methodological problems. In fact, it is far from clear whether the very idea of a
comparator system makes any sense in the case of thinking.


22
This is one of the main differences between Campbell and Friths (1992) comparator model of thinking. In the latter case,
the intention to think is conscious. For a specific critique of Friths model, see Gallagher (2000).

23
The intention to think is a very unclear notion and it does not seem to match the passive
phenomenology of normal thought; perhaps the notion can be better understood as the product of a
framing retrospective judgment about the occurrence of certain thoughts, but not as a part of the
actual experience of thoughts23. In addition to this, Campbells model goes against another basic
phenomenological observation. The experience of our own normal thoughts is neither accompanied
nor followed by any awareness of any type of intentions to think those thoughts. Consequently, there
is no such thing as the impression of matching a certain intention to think with the actual thoughts
appearing in my stream of consciousness. A final phenomenological worry is that the notion of
intention to think would not match the phenomenology of unbidden thoughts (Gallagher, 2000;
Synofzik, Vosgeray & Newen, 2008). Unbidden thoughts can be interpreted as thoughts that lack a
preceding intention to be thought, yet are self-attributed in terms of agency. As it stands, Campbells
model cannot make sense of these cases.

Campbells model also raises some conceptual worries. For a subject to be able to compare
the I-P and the thought P, the I-P and P must have exactly the same content. The only difference
between P and I-P in Campbells model is that one is unconscious I-P and the other is not P
(Campbell, 1999). However, this would make the ability to keep track of thoughts impossible, as the
intentions to think my own thoughts would not be available to conscious scrutiny. In fact, if I-P is not
consciously available, the ability to compare P and I-P itself is undermined; in this sense, Campbells
model is self-defeating. Now, if intentions to think are unconscious thoughts, and thoughts
themselves are motor processes, for every intention there must be another preceding intention to
generate it. In this sense, Campbells view leads to an infinite regress. As Synofzik, Vosgerau and
Newen (2008a, p. 235) rightly conclude, here we are left with a dilemma: either intentions are
thoughts and we face an infinite regress, or intentions are unconscious and then conscious thinking is
a mere epiphenomenon such that the comparator and the SoA [sense of agency] could not have any
function at all (Synofzik, Vosgerau & Newen, 2008a, p. 235).

When trying to deal with cases of thought insertion, Campbells model faces an explanatory
problem. Even if the model could make sense of cases of agentive mental self-attribution in normal
cases, it is not able to explain the external attribution that occurs in cases of thought insertion. The
mismatch between P and I-P would only explain the fact that a certain thought is not given as


23
By this, I mean that subjects might have the ability to create the impression of having had certain intentions to think when
integrating potential causal contextual information about the occurrence of certain thoughts. However, this does not mean
that those intentions are given in the experience of thoughts. In a certain way, those intentions would be illusionary.

24
authored by me because I-P cannot contain representational information about an external agent
(Vosgeray & Voss, 2014, p. 543). In these cases, a thought might be only experienced as appearing
out of the blue. However, not all my out-of-the-blue thoughts are attributed to external agents as it is
shown by unbidden thoughts. Thus, Campbells explanation of thought insertion collapses into the
explanation of unbidden thoughts, and this is certainly a serious explanatory problem for the view.
Perhaps, a plausible way to avoid this worry might be to introduce a second-factor explanatory
disturbance. Thus, a mismatch between an intention to think and the actual thought would not be
sufficient for a person to externally attribute a thought. In addition to this disturbance, a second
disturbance in the way subjects explain their own thoughts not present in cases of unbidden thought
would be required. Thus, the interaction between these two factors would explain the implausible
type of mental attribution that is made by thought insertion patients. However, this suggestion goes
beyond Campbells model, so the explanatory problems stands.

Finally, there is a methodological problem that seems to apply to all versions of the
comparator model for the case of thoughts. Most of the evidence for different neuropsychological
impairments leading up to the disruptions in the attributions of mental agency underlying thought
insertion has been established by analogy with the evidence for existing impairments in cases of alien
control of movements. The problem with this move is that as Synofzik et al. (2008) rightly claim
unlike bodily movements, thoughts do not have the sensorimotor characteristics to inform a feed-
forward inhibition of the self-monitoring system, which is the subpersonal mechanism that is claimed
to be defective in cases of delusions of alien control (Frith, 1999; Campbell, 1999). First, it is not
clear that the impairments identified in these cases actually lead to the delusions of thought insertion.
Second, and more important, is that the case for impairments in any type of comparator model related
to conscious thought has not been made based on direct evidence (perhaps, because there is no such
thing as a comparator model for thoughts). In conclusion, pace Campbells model, it does not seem
plausible that we can use any model that strongly relies on the sensorial nature of bodily actions to
explain how we self-attribute agency to our thoughts. Such a move leads to the aforementioned
phenomenological, conceptual, explanatory, and methodological problems. It sounds reasonable to
suggest, in turn, that models that do not rely on this parallelism might be in a better place to explain
how we come to externally and self-attribute our phenomenally available thoughts.

25
5. Affording Mental Agency: A Proposal

In light of the many disagreements surrounding the current discussion about our attributions
of mental agency, a search for new alternatives seems more than justified. In this section, I explore
one potential alternative that considers the notion of affordance as a key element in the challenge of
understanding this phenomenon. The most fundamental issue at hand in this context is the
clarification of the phenomenology of thoughts in light of the question about agency; only by
clarifying this issue we can produce correct formulations of the way in which we self-attribute
thoughts in agentive terms. As I have already argued, the phenomenology of thoughts is
fundamentally passive i.e. it does not involve any type of full first-order feeling of mental agency.
Thus, the bottom-up view struggles to explain the target phenomenon of this paper; however, this
does not imply that the top-down view is correct either. The passivity of our thoughts is just half of
the story, and the top-down view seems to ignore the second half when assuming a very poor notion
of the phenomenology of thoughts. Here, I maintain that any accurate and complete
phenomenological exploration should include the notion of affordances, and the case of thoughts is
no exception.

The term affordance refers to a set of potential actions that the awareness of certain
experiential states invites. Although the notion is introduced by Gibson (1979), the concept of
affordance seems to be rooted in Husserls philosophical work on the phenomenological role of
possibilities (1973; 1989, see also Merleau-Ponty, 1962). Husserl observes that when seeing a certain
entity, lets say a cup of tea, we do not only experience what actually appears to us at the time, i.e.
the cup. In addition, the cup appears as something I can grasp; it appears as graspable. The cup
appears as engageable, so to speak, in a number of different ways. To put still another way, my
awareness of the cup invites different actions based on a subjects abilities and expectations. Husserl
calls all the possibilities that the awareness of an entity invites, the entitys horizon.

Now, consider what McClelland (2015) suggests based on Gibsons idea of affordances:

When playing football, the ball is not just experientially given as red and round; it is also
given as kickable. We do not only perceive a cup of tea as white, but also as reachable.
We dont just perceive Justin Biebers face as babyish and self-satisfied, we perceive it as
slappable (p. 16).

26
The key unifying idea behind Husserls and Gibsons proposals seems to be that the
awareness of our perceptual states incorporate practical possibilities in the form of potential bodily
acts and other potential happenings, and that the opportunity to perform these acts figures in the
phenomenology of these states (Ratcliffe, 2013, p. 237). As McClelland (2015) rightly points out,
there is a manifest phenomenological difference between just seeing the ball and seeing it as
kickable (p. 16). Thus, the phenomenology of all our perceptual experiences is coloured by different
affordances24. Originally, Gibson (1979) claims that to perceive an affordance as the opportunity to
perform a certain bodily action for example is to stand in a non-representational picking up
relation to it. However, here I follow Prosser (2011), Siegel (2014) and McClelland (2015) and take
experiences to be fundamentally representational, so an affordance would contribute to our
phenomenology only in cases where a certain experiential state represents the presence of that
affordance25.

I believe that, in the same way we can talk about affordances in the case of perceptual
experiences, so it is plausible to talk about affordances in the case of awareness of cognitive
experiences. In this sense, thoughts would also be coloured by different cognitive affordances, our
awareness of them inviting different mental actions. This proposal is rooted in the work of people
like Scarantino (2003, p. 960), Ratcliffe (2013) and McClelland (2015, p. 18). The idea is that, just
like the awareness of a bright light or a loud noise affords attention under certain circumstances, so
the awareness of a certain thought affords a number of different mental acts, such as attending,
contemplating, concentrating, and so on, depending on the circumstances and capacities of a subject.
From this point of view, it is not implausible to talk about cognitive experiences after all.

Here one might propose an objection to the idea of cognitive affordance. It can be suggested
that physical objects are represented as affording certain actions in virtue of their being represented
as possessing certain intrinsic features. Something is grabbable because of its shape, reachable
because of its location, and so on. Therefore, it might be suggested that it is not at all clear how this
general picture is supposed to work for the case of thoughts. There is a simple reply to this objection.
It's true that the intrinsic properties of objects play a key role in mainstream affordances, but
relational properties do too (e.g. the distance of the object from your hand). Here I suggest that there


24
Husserl himself does not use the term affordance, but his notion of an entitys horizon makes plausible a parallelism.
See Zhok (2013).
25
I shall make this assumption given that the best way to characterize the notion of affordance is still under debate
(Scarantino 2003, p. 949; Jenkins 2008, p. 43).

27
is no reason why affordances have to involve perception of intrinsic properties. In this sense, it is
important to note that cognitive affordances are not like physical affordances in all respects, and this
would be just one of many differences between them. The critic might insist that affordances must
involve bodily actions, so cognitive affordances are no affordances at all. Again, this reply fails to
recognize the different nature of cognitive affordances compared with physical affordances, which is
a merely terminological dispute. The main issue is that if ones capacities to introspect, attend,
attribute, concentrate and so on can pervade the phenomenological quality of the awareness of ones
thoughts, then cognitive affordance are affordances in every way that matters to our discussion.

Taking all these ideas into consideration, I suggest that, although thoughts are fundamentally
passive, at the same time, our awareness of them is characterised by the presence of an affordance of
agentive attributability. Here it is crucial to distinguish phenomenal awareness of a thought from the
act of attributing agency to those phenomenally available thoughts. Agentive self-attribution and
external-attribution would be potential actions that thoughts afford depending on different external
factors and the subjects capacities. Although thoughts are passive, we experience the potential to
self-attribute them and this possibility pervades our awareness of them.

The experience of this cognitive affordance can vary depending upon a number of factors:
background knowledge, traits of personality, affective states, surrounding perceptual conditions,
cultural beliefs, among many others. In this sense, the awareness of our thoughts can be said to be
cognitively penetrated by all these factors. Consider the hypothetical case of a non-western culture
where there is no belief that one is the author of ones own thoughts; here, an affordance of self-
attributability would not be identified in the normal phenomenology of thoughts of a member of this
culture, so in this sense, this cognitive affordance might be taken as instantiating certain cultural
expectations26. Perhaps this non-western culture might have the belief that thoughts are divine gifts,
so an affordance of external-attributability would pervade the phenomenology of their own normal
thoughts27.

The influence of all these factors in the awareness of our thoughts might explain, for
example, the variability in the way people report their own thoughts discussed in section 2.3 (even

26
I thank Prof Tim Bayne for this suggestion. In fact, I think that the same can be said in cases of bodily affordances.
27
Cognitive affordances should be distinguished from the act of making judgements about cognitive experiences. Believing
that I can self-attribute phenomenally available thoughts (leading up to a top-down attribution type) is certainly different
from experiencing a thought as self-attributable. Merely identifying the belief of a subject fails to capture how this
attributability figures in her phenomenology.

28
within the same culture). At the same time, all these factors would influence how quickly persons go
on to endorse a certain cognitive affordance and perform the potential act it invites. Of course, this
endorsement is also influenced by the practical context in which a certain thought emerges. This
might then explain the difference between unbidden thoughts and those thoughts that emerge, for
example, in trying to solve a logical puzzle. Both types of thoughts are usually self-attributed in
terms of agency, but the quickness with which this act is performed varies, I suggest, given the
context in which they appear. While in the former case the subject is not expecting the unbidden
thought to appear in her stream of consciousness, in the latter the subject is trying to find an answer.
This difference would allow a quicker agentive self-attribution in the latter case even though the
awareness of both types of thought involves an affordance of self-attributability.

Affordances of mental attributability need to be distinguished from the final act of attributing
a certain thought to oneself in agentive terms. As mentioned before, the former does not entail
performing the latter. Strictly speaking, the affordance model I defend here claims that the act of
agentive self-attribution can be understood as an explanation of the occurrence of phenomenally
available thoughts. It denies the existence of a full bottom-up sense of agency accompanying
unreflected thoughts from which higher-order explanations are informed. Some would say that his
amounts to a top-down view; however, unlike current top-down views, the present view also
maintains that this agentive type of explanation is informed by the endorsement of an element that
figures in the awareness of thoughts, i.e. the affordance of mental attributability. While denying a
full sense of mental agency, the affordance model also claims that there is something in the
phenomenology of thoughts that informs agentive explanations, which is an idea that reflects
something of the spirit of bottom-up formulations.

Once the affordance of attributability is endorsed, subjects would go on to explain the


occurrence of the thought by making sense of it in light of their many potential causal factors.
Thoughts can be produced by a number of internal and external factors (Martin & Pacherie, 2013)28.
In explaining thoughts, subjects would integrate these factors with the occurrence of the actual
thought retrospectively, leading to the production of explanations in terms of agency that are well-
grounded in causal information. This process of coherent and integrative agentive explanation would
create a retrospective picture of the causal path of occurring thoughts leading to a certain experience
of mental agency (always derived from the already structured agentive explanation). From this point


28
For a further treatment of this issue, see paper 3 of this compilation.

29
of view, the experience of being the author of ones thoughts is the final product of this process of
retrospective explanation, not an element contained in the basic phenomenology of thoughts, as
bottom-up advocates propose. Agentive explanations require our awareness of thoughts to be
embedded in a certain cultural, perceptual and psychological framework. From this point of view, the
specific author of an unreflected thought is not part of its representational content; rather, the agent
of a thought is retrospectively afforded in the act of explaining its occurrence. In this sense, agentive
explanations would constitute an integration between a subjects background psychology
(knowledge, beliefs, affects, traits of personality, and so on) with contextual information related to
the conscious occurrence of a thought.

As it might be anticipated, attributions of mental agency within this affordance model would
strongly depend on introspection. I take introspection simply as the registering of our own mental
states. In this sense, introspection would go beyond merely attending thoughts, as it implies an
examination of the many features of our own thoughts, including an appreciation of the way in which
one becomes aware of them. Experiencing a thought in my stream of consciousness is quite different
from attributing self or external agency to it. Since unreflected thoughts do not include a full sense of
agency, but they do include an affordance of self-attributability, the act of self-attribution would be
performed in introspecting phenomenally available thoughts. Allegedly, we can expect people who
have problems introspecting to have problems in the act of making sense of the causal path of their
own thoughts (see Vosgerau & Voss, 2014). However, further research is needed in order to support
this claim.

6. Implications of the Affordance Model of Mental Agency: Explaining External Attribution

Up to now, most of the development of my proposal has been focused on the explanation of
self-attributions of agency. In this section I shall sketch a possible way of understanding the external
attribution of agency that characterizes the phenomenon of thought insertion. As I have claimed, any
plausible account of the nature of attributions of mental agency should be able to make sense of this
psychopathological issue, and this is exactly where some of the most popular models of attributions
of mental agency fail. Here, the task is twofold. First, the affordance model needs to account for how
an affordance of external attributability might figure as a possibility in the awareness of certain
thoughts. Second, given that the presence of an affordance does not necessarily entail the act it
invites, an affordance model needs also to explain why thought insertion patients endorse such a
bizarre possibility leading to the final external attribution characteristic of the phenomenon.

30
As has been suggested, our experience of cognitive affordances might vary depending upon
psychological, affective, perceptual and even cultural conditions. In addition, this awareness would
also vary depending upon the other accompanying phenomenal features of thoughts. The most basic
subjective structure of inserted thoughts can be divided into a negative and a positive aspect29. The
negative aspect refers to the fact that patients report certain abnormal thoughts lacking a sense of
ownership. The positive aspect refers to the external attribution that patients make based on the
phenomenal feature of the abnormal thought allegedly present in their stream of consciousness
(Synofzik, Newen & Vosgerau, 2008a; Martin & Pacherie, 2013). These two aspects can be observed
in following report:

I didnt hear these words as literal sounds, as through the houses were talking and I were
hearing them; instead, the words just came into my head they were ideas I was having.
Yet I instinctively knew they were not my ideas. They belonged to the houses, and the
houses had put them in my head (my emphasis, Saks, 2007, p. 29).

The first element to consider is that, in these cases, certain individual thoughts enjoy an
abnormal phenomenology. Patients do not feel these thoughts as their own thoughts (Mellor, 1960;
Fish, 1962; Frith, 1992). As Spence et al. (1997) comment one man said that thoughts were being
put into his mind and that they felt different from his own. In this sense, an attribution of mental
ownership would not be preserved in these cases because no sense of ownership is identified by the
patients (Metzinger, 2003). In addition, it has been also suggested that apart from this lack of
ownership, these patients experience the relevant thoughts as inserted (Billon, 2013; Billon &
Kriegel, 2015). The feature of being inserted would not be part of an explanation offered for the
occurrence of thoughts with bizarre phenomenal features. Rather, it would figure in their primary
phenomenology. The second issue to be considered is that delusions of thought insertion do not
emerge out of the blue. They arise in the context of a number of affective and perceptual changes
(Fuchs, 2005; Ratcliffe, 2013; Marhawa et al. 2013)30:


29
For a more specific treatment of this issue, see the introduction to this compilation (Section 3.1.).
30
As proposed in paper 2 of this compilation, a potential objection here is to claim that not all delusions of thought insertion
are adopted in the context of these more general alterations in consciousness. However, thought insertion is taken to be a
psychotic delusion by excellence and from this point of view, it is important to note that most psychotic patients adopt
delusions in the context of an importantly fragmented experience of themselves and the world (Silverstein & Uhlhaas, 2004;
Uhlhaas & Silverstein, 2005). In addition, first-personal accounts of the context in which thought insertion emerge seem to
support this idea (Saks, 2007; Payne, 2014). To deny this is to overlook one of the most crucial aspects of the occurrence of
most psychotic delusions. In fact, Jaspers (1963) considers this altered phenomenological context in which delusions are

31
The environment obtains a strange, artificial and puzzling character. It seems arranged
like a stage setting and things give the impression of being only covers or imitations for
an undeterminable purpose. But in the midst of this overall estrangement, a second
change occurs: single objects gain a new, mysterious and bewildering expression or
meaning. The sight of a limping man on the street may suddenly evoke the impression of
the devil hunting the patient (Fuchs, 2005, p. 134).

Taking all these phenomenal changes into consideration, it seems plausible to claim that
certain thoughts might include an affordance of external attributability. If a thought feels inserted, it
is quite natural to suggest that an affordance of external agentive attributability might pervade the
awareness of those thought. Of course, this suggestion is based on the view that the author of a
thought is not an intrinsic part of its representational content (see sections 2.4. and 5). Perhaps this
abnormal type of affordance is given simultaneously with a normal affordance of agentive self-
attributability, and this is in fact what explains the conflict, variable degrees of certainty, and
ambivalence with which the delusion is sometimes reported (Parnas, 2003; De Hann & De Bruin,
2010)31. As a patient claims thoughts are put into my mind like Kill God. Its just like my mind
working, but it isnt. They come from this chap, Chris. They are his thoughts (Frith, 1992, p.66, my
emphasis).

Now, the emergence of an affordance of external agentive attributability does not explain its
endorsement, so there is a second issue still in need of explanation. Two issues are relevant to solving
this. First, as already proposed, delusions of thought insertion usually arise in the midst of affective
and perceptual transformation. During this period, feelings of oppression, fragmentation, passivity,
uncertainty, lack of control and practical disengagement pervade the patients world and self-
awareness. Second, psychotic patients present a number of cognitive deficits that might be associated
with the way they come to explain abnormal experiences (Coltheart, Langdon & McKay, 2011;
Coltheart, 2002; 2015). Before adopting delusional beliefs, patients experience an increased need for
closure, i.e. the the desire for a definite answer on some topic, any answer compared to confusion
and ambiguity [will do] (Kruglanski, 1989, p. 14). Mckay, Langdon and Coltheart (2007) have
shown that delusion-prone subjects score considerably higher than healthy controls on the
Kruglanski, Webster and Klems need for closure scale. Thus, during the period preceding the
adoption of delusional beliefs, patients feel a higher need to resolve the all-pervading feeling of

adopted as the hallmark of psychotic delusions (see also Sass, 1994, Chapter 3 and Ratcliffe, 2013). For a further analysis
of this issue, see 3 and 5 of this compilation.
31
For a further discussion of this issue, see paper 2 of this compilation.

32
uncertainty and unpredictability of the world by clinging to anything that can make sense of the
general state of phenomenological confusion and uncertainty they are undergoing. In addition,
psychotic patients tend to exhibit an explanatory bias referred to as jumping to conclusions (JTC)
(see Bortolotti 2010). JTC is related to a deficit in the evaluation of evidence that might support a
certain doxastic hypothesis, e.g. that Chris is inserting these weird thought into my mind (see Evans,
Averbeck & Furl, 2015). Taking these elements into consideration, the endorsement of an affordance
of external agentive attributability leading up to the external attribution that characterizes thought
insertion might be prompted by the interaction between these cognitive deficits and the role that such
an explanation might play in gaining a certain degree of phenomenal unity and organization in the
patients experience of themselves and the world (see Mishara & Corlett, 2006)32. Finally, by
offering these clarifications, the affordance model I have defended here seems able to make sense of
external and self-attributions of agency of thought.

7. Concluding Remarks

In this paper I have offered an alternative explanatory model of agentive attributions of


mental agency. In doing so, I have offered an exclusive treatment of agency in the specific context of
conscious thoughts without establishing parallelisms with cases of bodily agency and motor control.
By appealing to a concept originally pioneered within the discussion about the phenomenology of
perceptual states, I have suggested that although unreflected thoughts are fundamentally passive, our
awareness of them is characterised by an affordance of agentive attributability. Although thoughts
are phenomenologically passive, they also invite certain mental acts. Thus, this affordance model is
able to make sense of the dilemma about how we come to self-attribute thoughts in terms of agency
even though thoughts do not feel as something we do. At the same, this model is also able to explain
how affordances of mental attributability might change within psychotic contexts leading up to the
type of external attributions of agency that characterize delusions of thought insertion.

I hope to have shown that, given their phenomenological and conceptual weaknesses, current
models aimed at explaining external and self-attributions of mental agency are unsatisfactory, and
that my proposal is better placed to explain our target phenomenon. One of the main advantages of
the affordance model is that it does not establish any type of parallelism between motor actions and
thoughts so it overcomes all the problems associated with this implausible move. In addition, this
model does not appeal to the existence of intentions to think involved in the generation of attributions

32
For a full defence of this view, see paper 5 of this compilation.

33
of mental agency, one of the most problematic issues within Friths and Campbells models of
conscious thinking. The analysis offered here has taken seriously the intuitions driving both current
bottom-up and top-down formulations of the agentive modality of mental self-attribution, finding that
both formulations are partly right and partly wrong. While current bottom-up views assume a rich but
mistaken picture of the phenomenology of thoughts, current top-down formulations endorse a correct
but incomplete view of this issue. The dialectical significance of my model is that it finds a middle
ground between bottom-up and top-down positions, integrating their most plausible elements. Thus,
it seems that the integration of the concept of affordances into our target discussion might not only
help to get a better grasp of the architecture of attributions of mental agency, but also to clarify the
foundational issue about how to best characterize the phenomenology of thoughts in terms of agency.
In conclusion, by adopting an integrative stance, the affordance model of agentive mental attributions
might be able to gain better dialectal traction than either of the two entrenched positions established
in the current literature.

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