Marc Jeannerod

The Volitional Brain

The author of Le Cerveau intime (2002) and L’Homme sans visage (2008), Marc Jeannerod is a professor of physiology at Claude-Bernard-Lyon-I University and the director of the Institute of Cognitive Sciences. He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences. His other works include Esprit, es-tu là? (with Jacques Hochmann, 1991), De la physiologie mentale (1996) and La Nature de l’esprit (2002).

Volition lies at the heart of human reality. It is the manifestation of our inner self, and plays an active part in the implementation of our intentions, desires and projects. The development of new scientific models has enabled physiologists — and not just philosophers — to lay the foundations of a “science of the will” and to measure more precisely the room for autonomy that our biological processes allow us. In this book, Marc Jeannerod accomplishes an amazing tour de force: he provides a close analysis of the brain at work, giving a detailed description of phenomena as they succeed one another during a goal-directed action. He then traces the path from the representation of an action in the brain to its accomplishment — that is to say, not only to the action’s execution but further down the line, to its result and consequences.
Current knowledge of the brain has gone beyond simple research and general or theoretic studies. The most recent works provide a better understanding of how the brain functions in our lives. There could be no greater challenge today than explaining what is a voluntary action.

Eschewing reductionism, the author uses science to unravel an ancient philosophical dilemma: Could human autonomy, freedom and responsibility, far from escaping the dictates of biology, actually be products of biology?

Based on the latest research, as well as on decades of personal scientific research, the eminent physiologist Marc Jeannerod has produced a brilliant work of scientific popularisation.