The Power of Agency

Dissertation, Columbia University (2012)

Authors
Michael Brent
Columbia University (PhD)
Abstract
I present an alternative account of action centered around the notion of effort. I argue that effort has several unique features: it is attributed directly to agents; it is a causal power that each agent alone possesses and employs; it enables agents causally to initiate, sustain, and control their capacities during the performance of an action; and its presence comes in varying degrees of strength. After defending an effort-based account of action and criticizing what is known as the standard story of action, I apply my account to situations in which an agent displays strength of will, such as when one struggles to perform an action while overcoming a persistent urge to do otherwise. I conclude by offering an explanation of mental action that demonstrates the extent of our powers of agency within the domain of the mental.
Keywords Agent Causation  Bodily Action  Mental Action  Effort  Will-power  Strength of Will
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