Philosophy of Agency

Philosophers of agency differ on the nature of intentionality, which is essential to understand the existence of genuine agency. Non-intentional beings can exhibit genuine agency without being causally efficacious. For example, if a being does not make a decision, but merely observes what is happening, it can display genuine agency. This is one of the main differences between the Self-interpretation and Standard theories of agency. This article will briefly review some of the most common philosophies of agency.

Not-agent philosophy of agency

The Not-agent philosophy of agency claims that the sense of agency is a human construct, not an infallible reproduction of objective reality. He says that this view is consistent with evidence that exaggerated agency occurs in a wide range of contexts, from gambling to social networking. Sociologist Robert Henslin studied cabbies in St. Louis during the 1960s, while they played craps.

In contrast, the Not-agent philosophy of agency rejects the notion that objects are capable of free will. It says that free will is a philosophical doctrine which holds that our decisions are not merely the products of causal chains. Agency, by contrast, implies that we make decisions and enact them on the world. The question is how we do it. However, this is a debate that focuses on the moral dimension of agency.

In Kant’s ideal of agency, the agent must be able to act morally without the influence of others. He is thus obliged to do what is morally right, even if it involves a violation of one’s own will. This demonstrates the innate goodness of human will. However, if the agent is unable to exercise his or her will, it is unable to perform morally correct behavior.

The Not-agent philosophy of agency, on the other hand, holds that agency is defined as a person appointed for a particular task or purpose. However, this view of agency does not hold true in every context. A person who is appointed by a principal to do a specific task may not necessarily have the same good intention for another person. In addition, competition between agents may result in the use of a principal’s benefits. Therefore, a not-agent philosophy of agency protects the principal from losing these benefits.

Self-interpretation theory

Socrates and Charles Taylor both reject anthropocentrism and emphasize the role of self-interpretation in understanding the human person. Socrates argues that we must think of the world as we experience it in the first person, while Taylor argues that we must think of the world from a third-person perspective to fully grasp our own self-understanding. But how can we see the world in this way?

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First, a mindshaping account of self-attribution would restore the first-person authority of confabulated self-attributions. This view would also expand the understanding of confabulation and suggest that the failure to shape behaviour in accordance with self-attributed mental states may constitute confabulation. Ultimately, this theory would raise interesting questions regarding human agency. But what is the role of self-attribution in our behavior?

Taylor’s account of the self is deeply influenced by the German Romantics, Hegel, and the philosophy of hermeneutics. In Sources of the Self, Taylor traces the development of modern agency and focuses on the topics of evaluation, cognition, and teleology. Taylor’s account is largely influenced by Hegel, while his critiques focus on the complexities of the self-interpretation process.

A distinction between FOA and JOA is crucial for understanding the difference between the two levels of agency. FOA automatically registers agency through sensorimotor contingencies, while higher-level JOA deploys general-purpose causal attribution processes. It is this distinction between FOA and JOA that clarifies the difference between agency and causality. Ultimately, both levels of agency require a sense of agency. Intentional binding is influenced by beliefs and contextual factors.

Standard theory

The standard theory of philosophy agency distinguishes between two kinds of agency: intentional and unintentional. Intentional agency is the central kind, and is distinguished from other, higher kinds through its detachment from representational mental states. Mental agency is a candidate for further kinds, including shared, relational, and artificial. But these are the most common kinds. These kinds are more closely related to one another than to their broader counterparts.

The standard theory of philosophy agency focuses on the concept of agency and how a human being can act. Agency is a skillful engagement with the world. Examples of agency include habitual action and responsive flow of interaction. Robotics, for example, demonstrate agency in coordinating limb movements and navigating novel environments. But, a person cannot be an agent simply by possessing the right to act. In some cases, a person may be an agent and not even realize it.

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One popular standard theory of philosophy is based on the assumption that the agent initiates the action. While this conception of agency is consistent with the idea that an agent initiates intentional actions, it does not require that the agent act with prior intention. Rather, agency can arise spontaneously from a person’s power to initiate an action. Although the reasons that motivate an action may have an important role in influencing the agent’s decision-making, the power to initiate and carry out the action is the source of agency.

The standard theory of philosophy agency assumes some form of realism. Reasons are only appropriate for attribution when the agent has the right internal states and representational contents. This is a controversial question in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Davidson holds the view that only human agents possess relevant mental attitudes. And so, the standard theory doesn’t offer a satisfactory explanation for the origin of agency. So, how does the standard theory fare against the arguments of the opposite side?

Deviant causal chains

One of the bugbears of causal accounts is the problem of deviant causal chains. This is a problem of inadequacy of the standard definition of appropriateness. In addition to causing confusion among causal account users, deviant causal chains are not easily detectable or excluded by default. This problem is exacerbated by the lack of a positive definition of appropriateness. Here are two scenarios where deviant causal chains arise:

First, we can think about the case where objects induce hallucinations that match their appearance. Another example is when thoughts cause spasms, which cause a body part to act. Both of these cases are deviant. These deviant actions cannot be accounted for by a normal causal chain. But deviant actions do exist. They include those instances where an agent has not been acting in accordance with its intention.

Second, deviant causal chains have given philosophers license to consider the problem of intentional action as intractable, since it is impossible to solve it by a traditional causal link. In fact, anti-compositionalists have recently started to move toward intentional action, with Yair Levy suggesting that intentional actions should be treated as primitive items of psychological ontology. However, this view cannot be applied to everyday life because it fails to explain the nature of human agency.

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In addition to this problem, a related issue is the question of how the human mind can detect causal relationships. Traditionally, it has been thought that the human mind is incapable of detecting direct causal relations, so the concept of causality has been obscured. David Hume distinguished between two different theories of causality: the regularity view and the counterfactual notion. According to this view, if X had not existed, Y would not exist.

Emergence theory

In contrast to reductionism, emergence is intended to conjoin the twin features of dependence and autonomy. It does so by mediating between extremes of dualism. In reductionism, entities are micro-dependent and others have macro-autonomy. In emergence, these attributes are not necessarily equivalent, but they do have a common denominator. However, there are two main differences between these theories.

Strong emergentists argue that emergents introduce novel causal powers and properties that are “over and above” their base counterparts. They reject the notion of physical causal closure, and instead suggest that emergent features are not redundant, but rather constitute a systemic “transformation” of their constituent entities. Emergence theories have drawn criticism from both sides of the spectrum, with the strongest emerging accounts supporting the stance that parts have no autonomy and become embedded in emergent systems.

In addition to its complexities, emergence has two fundamental differences. While some emergence theorists emphasise diachronic relationships between matter, others focus on the relationship between macro and micro-level theories. Regardless of how these differ, the common theme of emergence is that it manifests in synchronic patterns on different scales. Hence, emergence, in some sense, is a critical idea about human agency.

One major difference between strong and weak emergence is the degree of abstraction. For example, a weakly emergent property does not “realize” its own properties in an object. On the other hand, a strong emergent property produces an object with a previously unknown configurational interaction. In this scenario, the property M1 must manifest itself at t2 to occur. Therefore, the property M2 must be instantiated at t2, as it exists at level L-1.

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