April 12th, 2019
Margaret Laurence Room, Ryerson University.
With presentations from Robert Myers (York University), Maria Alvarez (King's College London), and Anton Ford (University of Chicago).
Anton Ford, University of Chicago
The Objectification of Agency
It has been the general practice of analytic philosophers to account for the nature of intentional action by attempting to say, with respect to a given manifold of events, what distinguishes the events that are intentional actions from those that are not. This question is raised from a standpoint other than that of the agent herself. After all, an action that appears in the postulated manifold is not “given” to the agent whose action it is. It is only from the standpoint of a spectator that agency presents itself as something already there. The aim of this paper is to motivate and characterize a different kind of a theory, one that adopts the standpoint of the agent.
Robert Myers, York University
Davidson's Meta-Normative Naturalism
Although Donald Davidson is best known for his account of motivating reasons, towards the end of his life he did write about normative reasons, arguing for a novel form of realism we might call anomalous naturalism – anomalous, because it is not just non-reductive but also non-revisionary, refusing to compromise in any way on the thought that the prescriptive authority of normative reasons is objective and reaches to all possible agents; naturalism, because it still treats normative properties as perfectly ordinary causal properties, and thus avoids many of the epistemological problems that bedevil realisms of the sort recently advanced by Thomas Nagel, Derek Parfit, and T. M. Scanlon.
In the first section of the paper, I discuss Davidson’s understanding of objective prescriptivity and one important challenge that it faces. In the second section, I show how an answer to this challenge can be found in Davidson’s holism of the mental. As we shall see, Davidson’s holism of the mental makes the possibility of strongly prescriptive properties much easier to take seriously. In the final section of the paper, I take up various grounds for doubting that such
properties could also be causal.
Maria Alvarez, King's College London
Agential Abilities and Control
I sketch an account of the abilities required for moral agency. According to this account, moral agency requires, among other things, abilities whose exercise is under the agent’s control (‘two-way’ abilities’). I explain some central features of these abilities, with a view to dispelling some misunderstandings about their nature. I then examine an objection based on so-called ‘Frankfurt-‘ and ‘Fischer-style cases’ that purports to show that moral responsibility for our actions doesn’t require the exercise of such abilities.
WORKS IN PROGRESS
Dr. Federica Berdini, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Title Agency and Authorship: Towards a Socially Situated, Interactionist View
This paper relates cases of socially displaced and distorted agency —i.e., agency exercised in conditions of oppression— to Christine Korsgaard’s constitutivist Authorship view of agency. In light of a potential problem that these cases pose to Korsgaard’s view, I suggest a way to amend it in an interactionist and socially situated key.