Neurobiological perspectives on agency: Ten axioms and ten propositions | Chapter individual record

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015. Herein, I define agency broadly, ranging from primitive animal activity to consciously driven human activity. I take the broad view because much of human conscious agency is driven by primitive neural processes. At the simplest level, actions are intrinsic, automated, and unconscious. At slightly higher levels, such actions are responses to stimuli. At still higher levels, actions arise from such agency elements as inherent drives, perception, memory recall, expected utility, intent to act, decision, plans, and finally action. These elements of agency may be unconscious, conscious, or some mixture of both. This chapter lists and explains ten “axioms of agency” that I believe would be widely accepted by many if not most neuroscientists. Axioms, however identified, need to be the starting point for understanding what new research is needed. Then, as perhaps a basis for new research, I identify ten “propositions of agency,” which are ideas open to debate. Two of those propositions, which I argue against, are that consciousness does not do anything and that there is no free will. I explain the view that agency derives from the circuit connections of neurons, which are most fundamentally hardwired in simple brains with relatively few neurons. But in higher animals, the superabundance of networks within networks allows for dynamic adjustment of circuitry to enable adaptive adjustment of the elements of agency. In all circuits, the spatiotemporal patterns of nerve impulses are the carriers of information. Therefore, if we know the circuitry and their impulse patterns, we may know the cause of any element of agency. Strategies and tactics are proposed.

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Klemm, W. R.
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