Games occupy a unique and valuable place in our lives. Game designers do not simply create worlds; they design temporary selves. Game designers set what our motivations are in the game and what our abilities will be. Thus: games are the art form of agency. By working in the artistic medium of agency, games can offer a distinctive aesthetic value. They support aesthetic experiences of deciding and doing. -/- And the fact that we play games shows something remarkable (...) about us. Our agency is more fluid than we might have thought. In playing a game, we take on temporary ends; we submerge ourselves temporarily in an alternate agency. Games turn out to be a vessel for communicating different modes of agency, for writing them down and storing them. Games create an archive of agencies. And playing games is how we familiarize ourselves with different modes of agency, which helps us develop our capacity to fluidly change our own style of agency. (shrink)
John Horty effectively develops deontic logic (the logic of ethical concepts like obligation and permission) against the background of a formal theory of agency. He incorporates certain elements of decision theory to set out a new deontic account of what agents ought to do under various conditions over extended periods of time. Offering a conceptual rather than technical emphasis, Horty's framework allows a number of recent issues from moral theory to be set out clearly and discussed from a uniform (...) point of view. (shrink)
Philosophical theories of agency have focused primarily on actions and activities. But, besides acting, we often omit to do or refrain from doing certain things. How is this aspect of our agency to be conceived? This book offers a comprehensive account of omitting and refraining, addressing issues ranging from the nature of agency and moral responsibility to the metaphysics of absences and causation. Topics addressed include the role of intention in intentional omission, the connection between negligence and (...) omission, the distinction between doing and allowing, and the distinction in law between act and omission. (shrink)
Human beings act together in characteristic ways that matter to us a great deal. This book explores the conceptual, metaphysical and normative foundations of such sociality. It argues that appeal to the planning structures involved in our individual, temporally extended agency provides substantial resources for understanding these foundations of our sociality.
The Shape of Agency offers interlinked explanations of the basic building blocks of agency, as well as its exemplary instances. The first part offers accounts of a collection of related phenomena that have long troubled philosophers of action: control over behaviour, non-deviant causation, and intentional action. These accounts build on earlier work in the causalist tradition, and undermine the claims made by many that causalism cannot offer a satisfying account of non-deviant causation, and therefore fails as an account (...) of intentional action. The second part turns to modes of agentive excellence—ways that agents display quality of form—providing a novel account of skill, including an account of the ways that agents display more or less skill. Shepherd discusses the role of knowledge in skill, and concludes that while knowledge is often important, it is inessential. This leads to a discussion of the way that knowledge of action and knowledge of how to act informs action execution. Knowledgeable action includes a unique epistemic underpinning: in knowledgeable action, the agent has authoritative knowledge of what she is doing and how she is doing it when and because she is poised to control her action by way of practical reasoning. (shrink)
From a moral point of view we think of ourselves as capable of responsible actions. From a scientific point of view we think of ourselves as animals whose behaviour, however highly evolved, conforms to natural scientific laws. Natural Agency argues that these different perspectives can be reconciled, despite the scepticism of many philosophers who have argued that 'free will' is impossible under 'scientific determinism'. This scepticism is best overcome, according to the author, by defending a causal theory of action, (...) that is by establishing that actions are constituted by behavourial events with the appropriate kind of mental causal history. He sets out a rich and subtle argument for such a theory and defends it against its critics. Thus the book demonstrates the importance of philosophical work in action theory for the central metaphysical task of understanding our place in nature. (shrink)
Ernest Sosa extends his distinctive approach to epistemology, intertwining issues concerning the role of the will in judgment and belief with issues of epistemic evaluation. Questions about skepticism and the nature of knowledge are at the forefront. The answers defended are new in their explicit and sustained focus on judgment and epistemic agency. While noting that human knowledge trades on distinctive psychological capacities, Sosa also emphasizes the role of the social in human knowledge. Basic animal knowledge is supplemented by (...) a level of reflective knowledge focused on judgment, and a level of 'knowing full well' that is distinctive of the animal that is rational. (shrink)
The central insight of Darwin's Origin of Species is that evolution is an ecological phenomenon, arising from the activities of organisms in the 'struggle for life'. By contrast, the Modern Synthesis theory of evolution, which rose to prominence in the twentieth century, presents evolution as a fundamentally molecular phenomenon, occurring in populations of sub-organismal entities - genes. After nearly a century of success, the Modern Synthesis theory is now being challenged by empirical advances in the study of organismal development and (...) inheritance. In this important study, D. M. Walsh shows that the principal defect of the Modern Synthesis resides in its rejection of Darwin's organismal perspective, and argues for 'situated Darwinism': an alternative, organism-centred conception of evolution that prioritises organisms as adaptive agents. His book will be of interest to scholars and advanced students of evolutionary biology and the philosophy of biology. (shrink)
This volume presents a selection of the Proceedings of the Workshop on Anticipation, Agency and Complexity held in Trento on April 2017. The contributions contained in the book brilliantly revolve around three core concepts: agency, complexity and anticipation, giving precious insights to further define the discipline of anticipation. In a world that moves increasingly fast, constantly on the verge of disruptive events, more and more scholars and practitioners in any field feel in need of new approaches to make (...) sense of the complexity and uncertainty that the future seems to bear. The theory of anticipation tries to describe how possible futures are intrinsically intertwined with the present. (shrink)
Are companies, churches, and states genuine agents? Or are they just collections of individuals that give a misleading impression of unity? This question is important, since the answer dictates how we should explain the behaviour of these entities and whether we should treat them as responsible and accountable on the model of individual agents. Group Agency offers a new approach to that question and is relevant, therefore, to a range of fields from philosophy to law, politics, and the social (...) sciences. Christian List and Philip Pettit argue that there really are group or corporate agents, over and above the individual agents who compose them, and that a proper approach to the social sciences, law, morality, and politics must take account of this fact. Unlike some earlier defences of group agency, their account is entirely unmysterious in character and, despite not being technically difficult, is grounded in cutting-edge work in social choice theory, economics, and philosophy. (shrink)
Is it ever possible for people to act freely and intentionally against their better judgement? Is it ever possible to act in opposition to one's strongest desire? If either of these questions are answered in the negative, the common-sense distinctions between recklessness, weakness of will and compulsion collapse. This would threaten our ordinary notion of self-control and undermine our practice of holding each other responsible for moral failure. So a clear and plausible account of how weakness of will and self-control (...) are possible is of great practical significance.Taking the problem of weakness of will as her starting point, Jeanette Kennett builds an admirably comprehensive and integrated account of moral agency which gives a central place to the capacity for self-control. Her account of the exercise and limits of self-control vindicates the common-sense distinction between weakness of will and compulsion and so underwrites our ordinary allocations of moral responsibility. She addresses with clarity and insight a range of important topics in moral psychology, such as the nature of valuing and desiring, conceptions of virtue, moral conflict, and the varieties of recklessness - and does so in terms which make their relations to each other and to the challenges of real life obvious. Agency and Responsibility concludes by testing the accounts developed of self-control, moral failure, and moral responsibility against the hard cases provided by acts of extreme evil. (shrink)
The concept of agency is of crucial importance in cognitive science and artificial intelligence, and it is often used as an intuitive and rather uncontroversial term, in contrast to more abstract and theoretically heavy-weighted terms like “intentionality”, “rationality” or “mind”. However, most of the available definitions of agency are either too loose or unspecific to allow for a progressive scientific program. They implicitly and unproblematically assume the features that characterize agents, thus obscuring the full potential and challenge of (...) modeling agency. We identify three conditions that a system must meet in order to be considered as a genuine agent: a) a system must define its own individuality, b) it must be the active source of activity in its environment (interactionalasymmetry) and c) it must regulate this activity in relation to certain norms (normativity). We find that even minimal forms of proto-celular systems can already provide a paradigmatic example of genuine agency. By abstracting away some specific details of minimal models of living agency we define the kind of organization that is capable to meet the required conditions for agency (which is not restricted to living organisms). On this basis, we define agency as an autonomous organization that adaptively regulates its coupling with its environment and contributes to sustaining itself as a consequence. We find that spatiality and temporality are the two fundamental domains in which agency spans at different scales. We conclude by giving an outlook to the road that lies ahead in the pursuit to understand, model and synthesis agents. (shrink)
The central problem of social theory is 'structure and agency'. How do the objective features of society influence human agents? Determinism is not the answer, nor is conditioning as currently conceptualised. It accentuates the way structure and culture shape the social context in which individuals operate, but it neglects our personal capacity to define what we care about most and to establish a modus vivendi expressive of our concerns. Through inner dialogue, 'the internal conversation', individuals reflect upon their social (...) situation in the light of current concerns and projects. On the basis of a series of unique, in-depth interviews, Archer identifies three distinctive forms of internal conversation. These govern agents' responses to social conditioning, their individual patterns of social mobility and whether or not they contribute to social stability or change. Thus the internal conversation is seen as being the missing link between society and the individual, structure and agency. (shrink)
I defend two main theses. First, I argue that Aristotle’s account of voluntary action focuses on the conditions under which one is the cause of one’s actions in virtue of being (qua) the individual one is. Aristotle contrasts voluntary action not only with involuntary action but also with cases in which one acts (or does something) due to one’s nature (for example, in virtue of being a member of a certain species) rather than due to one’s own desires (i.e. qua (...) individual). An action can be attributed to one qua individual in two distinct ways depending on whether one is a rational or a non-rational animal. One is responsible for one’s action in both cases, but only in the former case is one also responsible for being the sort of individual that performs it. Aristotle also distinguishes two ways in which an action can be compelled while still being an action of the agent. In the first case, one is compelled by (physically) external forces or circumstances to act against one’s internal impulse. In the second case, one is compelled to act on (internal) impulses that are fixed by one’s nature against one’s own individual impulse. This latter kind of compelled action is only possible in the case of rational agents. Secondly, I argue that Aristotle’s conception of what it is to be a cause of an action inevitably brings in certain normative features which support evaluative judgments and the practice of praise and blame. On Aristotle’s view, any goal-directed behavior that is properly attributable to an individual is (normally) subject to standards that pertain to behavior of that sort. At the most basic level, these standards establish what counts as a successful realization of the goal that one aims at. Thus even in the case of non-rational animals (or children), one can judge the success of what they are doing and encourage (or discourage) similar behavior by praise or blame. These standards are applicable to one’s conduct simply insofar as one is the controlling origin (or efficient cause) of one’s action qua individual. In the case of rational agents the practice of praise and blame can involve a further normative layer since they can be praised or blamed not only for acting in a certain way so as to encourage or discourage them with a view to the future, but also for being – and having become – individuals of a certain sort. Nevertheless, the applicability of such evaluative judgments and of praise and blame is still warranted by one’s being the controlling origin of one’s actions qua the individual one is (in this case, qua rational individual). (shrink)
A companion volume to Free Will: A Philosophical Study, this new anthology collects influential essays on free will, including both well-known contemporary classics and exciting recent work. Agency and Responsibility: Essays on the Metaphysics of Freedom is divided into three parts. The essays in the first section address metaphysical issues concerning free will and causal determinism. The second section groups papers presenting a positive account of the nature of free action, including competing compatibilist and incompatibilist analyses. The third section (...) concerns free will and moral responsibility, including theories of moral responsibility and the challenge to an alternative possibilities condition posed by Frankurt-type scenarios. Distinguished by its balance and consistently high quality, the volume presents papers selected for their significance, innovation, and clarity of expression. Contributors include Harry Frankfurt, Peter van Inwagen, David Lewis, Elizabeth Anscombe, John Martin Fischer, Michael Bratman, Roderick Chisholm, Robert Kane, Peter Strawson, and Susan Wolf. The anthology serves as an up-to-date resource for scholars as well as a useful text for courses in ethics, philosophy of religion, or metaphysics. In addition, paired with Free Will: A Philosophical Study, it would form an excellent upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level course in free will, responsibility, motivation, or action theory. (shrink)
This book argues that we need to explore how human beings can best coordinate and collaborate with robots in responsible ways. It investigates ethically important differences between human agency and robot agency to work towards an ethics of responsible human-robot interaction.
Letheby’s book is an engaging and crystal-clear exploration of the philosophical issues raised by the use of psychedelic drugs. In this paper, we focus on the epistemological issues Letheby examines in chapter 8 and argue that his analysis requires an agency-first approach to epistemic evaluation. On an agency-first approach, epistemic evaluation is about identifying the skills agents needs to acquire in order to pursue and fulfil their epistemic goals.
This book presents a comprehensive examination of Gottfried Leibniz's views on the nature of agents and their actions. Julia Jorati offers a fresh look at controversial topics including Leibniz's doctrines of teleology, the causation of spontaneous changes within substances, divine concurrence, freedom, and contingency, and also discusses widely neglected issues such as his theories of moral responsibility, control, attributability, and compulsion. Rather than focusing exclusively on human agency, she explores the activities of non-rational substances and the differences between distinctive (...) types of actions, showing how the will, appetitions, and teleology are key to Leibniz's discussions of agency. Her book reveals that Leibniz has a nuanced and compelling philosophy of action which has relevance for present-day discussions of agency. It will be of interest to scholars and students of early modern philosophy as well as to metaphysicians and philosophers of action. (shrink)
The aim of this exploratory paper is to review an under-appreciated parallel between group agency and artificial intelligence. As both phenomena involve non-human goal-directed agents that can make a difference to the social world, they raise some similar moral and regulatory challenges, which require us to rethink some of our anthropocentric moral assumptions. Are humans always responsible for those entities’ actions, or could the entities bear responsibility themselves? Could the entities engage in normative reasoning? Could they even have rights (...) and a moral status? I will tentatively defend the (increasingly widely held) view that, under certain conditions, artificial intelligent systems, like corporate entities, might qualify as responsible moral agents and as holders of limited rights and legal personhood. I will further suggest that regulators should permit the use of autonomous artificial systems in high-stakes settings only if they are engineered to function as moral (not just intentional) agents and/or there is some liability-transfer arrangement in place. I will finally raise the possibility that if artificial systems ever became phenomenally conscious, there might be a case for extending a stronger moral status to them, but argue that, as of now, this remains very hypothetical. (shrink)
It is not very surprising that it was no less true in antiquity than it is today that adult human beings are held to be responsible for most of their actions. Indeed, virtually all cultures in all historical periods seem to have had some conception of human agency which, in the absence of certain responsibility-defeating conditions, entails such responsibility. Few philosophers have had the temerity to maintain that this entailment is trivial because such responsibility-defeating conditions are always present. Another (...) not very surprising fact is that ancient thinkers tended to ascribe integrality to "what is". That is, they typically regarded "what is" as a cosmos or whole with distinguishable parts that fit together in some coherent or cohesive manner, rather than either as a "unity" with no parts or as a collection containing members standing in no "natural" relations to one another. 1 The philoso phical problem of determinism and responsibility may, I think, best be characterized as follows: it is the problem of preserving the phenomenon of human agency when one sets about the philosophical or scientific task of explaining the integrality of "what is" by means of the development of a theory of causation or explanation. (shrink)
Many ethicists writing about automated systems attribute agency to these systems. Not only that; they seemingly attribute an autonomous or independent form of agency to these machines. This leads some ethicists to worry about responsibility-gaps and retribution-gaps in cases where automated systems harm or kill human beings. In this paper, I consider what sorts of agency it makes sense to attribute to most current forms of automated systems, in particular automated cars and military robots. I argue that (...) whereas it indeed makes sense to attribute different forms of fairly sophisticated agency to these machines, we ought not to regard them as acting on their own, independently of any human beings. Rather, the right way to understand the agency exercised by these machines is in terms of human–robot collaborations, where the humans involved initiate, supervise, and manage the agency of their robotic collaborators. This means, I argue, that there is much less room for justified worries about responsibility-gaps and retribution-gaps than many ethicists think. (shrink)
Explaining agency is a significant challenge for those who are interested in the sciences of the mind, and non-representationalists are no exception to this. Even though both ecological psychologists and enactivists agree that agency is to be explained by focusing on the relation between the organism and the environment, they have approached it by focusing on different aspects of the organism-environment relation. In this paper, I offer a suggestion for a radical embodied account of agency that combines (...) ecological psychology with recent trends in enactive cognitive science. According to this proposal, while enactivism focuses primarily on describing how our acquired sensorimotor schemes and habits mutually equilibrate, affecting our tendency to act upon some affordances instead of others, ecological psychology focuses on studying how perceptual information contributes to the actualization of the sensorimotor schemes and habits without mediating representations, inferences, and computations. The paper concludes by briefly exploring how this ecological-enactive theory of agency can account for how socio-cultural norms shape human agency. (shrink)
The purpose of this article is to examine two important issues concerning the agency theory of causality: the charge of anthropomorphism and the relation of simultaneous causation. After a brief outline of the agency theory, sections 2–4 contain the refutation of the three main forms in which the charge of anthropomorphism is to be found in the literature. It will appear that it is necessary to distinguish between the subjective and the objective aspect of the concept of causation. (...) This will lead, in section 5, to contrast two kinds of anthropomorphism, one which has been rightly rejected by modern science and one which is fully compatible with the objective reality of the causal processes. Finally, section 6 will apply the preceding considerations to simultaneous causation. On the one hand, in a basic sense, there can be no simultaneous causal relations. On the other hand, simultaneous causation arises when we consider the natural change by abstracting from the agent and from her/his projects of interven.. (shrink)
This is a collection of published and unpublished essays by distinguished philosopher Michael E. Bratman of Stanford University. They revolve around his influential theory, know as the "planning theory of intention and agency." Bratman's primary concern is with what he calls "strong" forms of human agency--including forms of human agency that are the target of our talk about self-determination, self-government, and autonomy. These essays are unified and cohesive in theme, and will be of interest to philosophers in (...) ethics and metaphysics. (shrink)
In this book, Binder shows that at the heart of the most prominent arguments in favour of value-neutral approaches to overall freedom lies the value freedom has for human agency and development. Far from leading to the adoption of a value-neutral approach, however, ascribing importance to freedom’s agency value requires one to adopt a refined value-based approach. Binder employs an axiomatic framework in order to develop such an approach. She shows that a focus on freedom’s agency value (...) has far reaching consequences for existing results in the freedom ranking literature: it requires one to move beyond a person’s given all-things-considered preferences to the values underlying a person’s preference formation. Furthermore, it requires, as Binder argues, one to account for those differences between choice options which really matter to people. Binder illustrates the implications of her analysis for the evaluation of public policy and human development with the capability approach: only if sufficient importance is ascribed to freedom’s agency value can the capability approach keep its promises. . (shrink)
Is human freedom and choice exaggerated in recent social theory? Should agency be the central in sociology? In this, penetrating and assured book, one of the leading commentators in the field asks where social theory is going. Barnes argues that social theory has taken the wrong turn in over-stating individual freedom. The result is that social contexts in which all individual actions are situated, is dangerously under-theorized. Barnes calls for a form of social theory that recognizes that sociability is (...) the essential characteristic of human life. It is our capacity to communicate with each other, and plan for each other’s welfare, that makes us truly human. Once this is allowed, notions of “agency”, “freedom”, and “choice” lose their connotation with free-floating individualism. Instead the embedded character of agency is starkly revealed. This is a model of well-informed and balanced analysis. It will be of interest to students of sociology, philosophy and social theory. (shrink)
Aspiration by Agnes Callard locates standing assumptions in the theory of rationality, moral psychology and autonomy that preclude the possibility of working to acquire new values. The book also explains what changes need to be made if we are to make room for this form of agency, which I call aspiration.
In very general terms, an agent is a being with the capacity to act, and 'agency' denotes the exercise or manifestation of this capacity. The philosophy of action provides us with a standard conception and a standard theory of action. The former construes action in terms of intentionality, the latter explains the intentionality of action in terms of causation by the agent’s mental states and events. From this, we obtain a standard conception and a standard theory of agency. (...) There are alternative conceptions of agency, and it has been argued that the standard theory fails to capture agency. Further, it seems that genuine agency can be exhibited by beings that are not capable of intentional action, and it has been argued that agency can and should be explained without reference to causally efficacious mental states and events. Debates about the nature of agency have flourished over the past few decades in philosophy and in other areas of research. In philosophy, the nature of agency is an important issue in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of psychology, the debates on free will and moral responsibility, in ethics, meta-ethics, and in the debates on the nature of reasons and practical rationality. For the most part, this entry focuses on conceptual and metaphysical questions concerning the nature of agency. In the final sections, it provides an overview of empirically informed accounts of the sense of agency and of various empirical challenges to the commonsense assumption that our reasons and our conscious intentions make a real difference to how we act. (shrink)
Paul Katsafanas explores how we can justify normative claims such as 'murder is wrong'. He defends an original account of constitutivism--the view that we do so by showing that agents become committed to them in virtue of acting--and resolves philosophical puzzles about the metaphysics, epistemology, and practical grip of normative claims.
Feminist critiques of intention challenge some aspects of traditional just war reasoning, including the criteria of right intention and discrimination. I take note of these challenges and propose some directions just war reasoners might take in response. First, right intention can be evaluated more accurately by judging what actors in war actually do than by attempting to uncover inward dispositions. Assessing whether agents in war have taken due care to minimize foreseeable collateral damage, avoided intentional targeting of noncombatants, corrected previous (...) mistakes in their later actions, and taken responsibility to repair unintended damage they cause are examples of ways in which just war reasoners can evaluate intention by looking at actions. (shrink)
Charles Taylor has been one of the most original and influential figures in contemporary philosophy: his 'philosophical anthropology' spans an unusually wide range of theoretical interests and draws creatively on both Anglo-American and Continental traditions in philosophy. A selection of his published papers is presented here in two volumes, structured to indicate the direction and essential unity of the work. He starts from a polemical concern with behaviourism and other reductionist theories (particularly in psychology and the philosophy of language) which (...) aim to model the study of man on the natural sciences. This leads to a general critique of naturalism, its historical development and its importance for modern culture and consciousness; and that in turn points, forward to a positive account of human agency and the self, the constitutive role of language and value, and the scope of practical reason. The volumes jointly present some two decades of work on these fundamental themes, and convey strongly the tenacity, verve and versatility of the author in grappling with them. They will interest a very wide range of philosophers and students of the human sciences. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with the problem of selfidentification in the domain of action. We claim that this problem can arise not just for the self as object, but also for the self as subject in the ascription of agency. We discuss and evaluate some proposals concerning the mechanisms involved in selfidentification and in agencyascription, and their possible impairments in pathological cases. We argue in favor of a simulation hypothesis that claims that actions, whether overt or covert, are centrally (...) simulated by the neural network, and that this simulation provides the basis for action recognition and attribution. (shrink)
In this essay, I describe and explain the standard accounts of agency, natural agency, artificial agency, and moral agency, as well as articulate what are widely taken to be the criteria for moral agency, supporting the contention that this is the standard account with citations from such widely used and respected professional resources as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I then flesh out the implications of (...) some of these well-settled theories with respect to the prerequisites that an ICT must satisfy in order to count as a moral agent accountable for its behavior. I argue that each of the various elements of the necessary conditions for moral agency presupposes consciousness, i.e., the capacity for inner subjective experience like that of pain or, as Nagel puts it, the possession of an internal something-of-which-it is-is-to-be-like. I ultimately conclude that the issue of whether artificial moral agency is possible depends on the issue of whether it is possible for ICTs to be conscious. (shrink)
Berislav Marusic explores how we should take evidence into account when thinking about future actions, such as resolving to do something we know will be difficult. Should we believe we will follow through, or not? He argues that if it is important to us, we can rationally believe we will do it, even if our belief contradicts the evidence.
For centuries, philosophers have identified beauty with what brings pleasure. Dominic McIver Lopes challenges this interpretation by offering an entirely new theory of beauty - that beauty engages us in action, in concert with others, in the context of social networks - and sheds light on why aesthetic engagement is crucial for quality of life.
According to our traditional conception of agency, most human beings are agents and most, if not all, nonhuman animals are not. However, recent developments in philosophy and psychology have made it clear that we need more than one conception of agency, since human and nonhuman animals are capable of thinking and acting in more than one kind of way. In this paper, I make a distinction between perceptual and propositional agency, and I argue that many nonhuman animals (...) are perceptual agents and that many human beings are both kinds of agent. I then argue that, insofar as human and nonhuman animals exercise the same kind of agency, they have the same kind of moral status, and I explore some of the moral implications of this idea. (shrink)
Kirk Ludwig presents a philosophical account of institutional action, such as action by corporations and nation states. He argues that it can be fully understood in terms of the agency of individuals, and concepts derived from our understanding of individual action. He thus argues for a strong form of methodological individualism.
This paper gives an account of proxy agency in the context of collective action. It takes the case of a group announcing something by way of a spokesperson as an illustration. In proxy agency, it seems that one person or subgroup's doing something counts as or constitutes or is recognized as (tantamount to) another person or group's doing something. Proxy agency is pervasive in institutional action. It has been taken to be a straightforward counterexample to an appealing (...) deflationary view of collective action as a matter of all members of a group making a contribution to bringing about some event. I show that this is a mistake. I give a deflationary account of constitutive rules in terms of essentially collective action types. I then give an account of one form of constitutive agency in terms of constitutive rules. I next give an account of status functions—of which being a spokesperson is one—that also draws on the concept of a constitutive rule. I then show how these materials help us to see how proxy agency is an expression of the agency of all members of the group credited with doing something when the proxy acts. (shrink)
In the subsequent pages, I want to develop a distinction between wanting and valuing which will enable the familiar view of freedom to make sense of the notion of an unfree action. The contention will be that, in the case of actions that are unfree, the agent is unable to get what he most wants, or values, and this inability is due to his own "motivational system." In this case the obstruction to the action that he most wants to do (...) is his own will. It is in this respect that the action is unfree: the agent is obstructed in and by the very performance of the action. (shrink)
The subject of personal identity is one of the most central and most contested and exciting in philosophy. Ever since Locke, psychological and bodily criteria have vied with one another in conflicting accounts of personal identity. Carol Rovane argues that, as things stand, the debate is unresolvable since both sides hold coherent positions that our common sense, she maintains, is conflicted; so any resolution to the debate is bound to be revisionary. She boldly offers such a revisionary theory of personal (...) identity by first inquiring into the nature of persons. Rovane begins with a premise about the distinctive ethical nature of persons to which all substantive ethical doctrines, ranging from Kantian to egoist, can subscribe. From this starting point, she derives two startling metaphysical possibilities: there could be group persons composed of many human beings and muliple persons within a single human being. Her conclusions supports Locke's distinction between persons and human beings, but on altogether new grounds. These grounds lie in her radically normative analysis of the condition of personal identity, as the condition in which a certain normative commitment arises, namely, the commitment to achieve overall rational unity within a rational point of view. It is by virtue of this normative commitment that individual agents can engage one another specifically as persons, and possess the distinctive ethical status of persons. Carol Rovan is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. Originally published in 1997. The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905. (shrink)
This is the first philosophical study of artifacts that is book length. In it Randall Dipert develops a theory of what artifacts are and applies it extensively to one of the most complex and intriguing kind of artifacts, art works. He presents his own account of what agents, intentions, and actions are, then uses these notions to clarify what it is for an agent to "make" something. From this starting point, he develops a full theory of artifacts and other artificial (...) things - and, especially, a theory of art works and performances of art works as artifacts. He proposes a theory of nature and of the value of nature as what is essentially nonartificial. Two chapters are devoted to value considerations: merit in artifacts generally, and the evaluation of art works and performance art as artifacts or intentional gestures. Believing that a developed theory of action and philosophy of mind is necessary for a developed aesthetics and philosophy of art, Dipert relies on classical and contemporary research on agency, actions, and intentions, and on the intentionalist theory of mental objects of Brentano and Meinong. Dipert considers artifacts to be physical entities, but he also includes in the definition thoughts, utterances, and performances. This vast category encompasses everyday household objects and tools, streets and edifices, as well as communicative and artistic artifacts. Especially with regard to artistic artifacts, Dipert proposes a theory of expression and communication as actions and extensively discusses the problems of interpreting and recognizing actions, artifacts, and art works. (shrink)
Can animals be agents? Do they want to be free? Can they have meaningful lives? If so, should we change the way we treat them? This paper offers an account of animal agency and of two continuums: between human and nonhuman agency, and between wildness and captivity. It describes how a wide range of human activities impede on animals’ freedom and argues that, in doing so, we deprive a wide range of animals of opportunities to exercise their (...) class='Hi'>agency in ways that can give meaning to their lives. (shrink)
Pathologies of agency affect both groups and individuals. I present a case study of agential pathology in a group, in which supposedly rogue members of a group act in light of what they take the group’s interests and attitudes to be, but in a way that goes against the group’s explicitly stated agential point of view. I consider several practical concerns brought out by rogue member action in the context of a group agent, focusing in particular on how it (...) undermines the agency of the group and whether or not the group agent itself may be responsible for it. (shrink)
This essay addresses the question how we know our conscious thinking. Conscious thinking typically takes the form of a series of discrete episodes that constitute a complex cognitive activity. We must distinguish the discrete episodes of thinking in which a particular content is represented in phenomenal consciousness and is present “before the mind’s eye” from the extended activities of which these episodes form a part. The extended activities are themselves contentful and we have first-person access to them. But because their (...) content is not represented in phenomenal consciousness, this access cannot be broadly observational. Instead, I argue, it is agential. Furthermore, that extended activities are intentional explains the possibility of a nonobservational form of introspective access to the discrete episodes in consciousness. (shrink)
When agents insert technological systems into their decision-making processes, they can obscure moral responsibility for the results. This can give rise to a distinct moral wrong, which we call “agency laundering.” At root, agency laundering involves obfuscating one’s moral responsibility by enlisting a technology or process to take some action and letting it forestall others from demanding an account for bad outcomes that result. We argue that the concept of agency laundering helps in understanding important moral problems (...) in a number of recent cases involving automated, or algorithmic, decision-systems. We apply our conception of agency laundering to a series of examples, including Facebook’s automated advertising suggestions, Uber’s driver interfaces, algorithmic evaluation of K-12 teachers, and risk assessment in criminal sentencing. We distinguish agency laundering from several other critiques of information technology, including the so-called “responsibility gap,” “bias laundering,” and masking. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue for a conditional parity thesis: if we are agents with respect to our intentions, we are agents with respect to our beliefs. In the final section, I motivate a categorical version of the parity thesis: we are agents with respect to belief and intention. My aim in this paper is to show that there is no unique challenge facing epistemic agency that is not also facing agency with respect to intention. My thesis is (...) ambitious on two fronts. First, the parity thesis is a substantive thesis about the nature of belief and intention. I argue that there is a structural parity of belief and intention; the status of whether they are agential stands and falls together. Second, the parity thesis illuminates the nature of agency. It constrains what counts as a satisfactory account of agency: either we must accept agency of both belief and intention, or we must reject both. In the final section, I argue that we have prima facie reason to accept agency of belief and intention. Finally, I diagnose why there has been such resistance to epistemic agency. Epistemic agency is problematic, but its problems are problems with agency, not problems with epistemic agency. (shrink)