Improvisational agency Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Bagley, Benjamin Christopher
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • Consider three puzzles in ethics. * Love should affirm something special about you, and so be a selective response to certain of your qualities. But it should also appreciate you as a particular individual, not as a member of the class of people with the qualities in question. * A central species of blame is essentially addressed to the agent of a bad action. Yet while it is not aptly directed toward agents who cannot be reasoned into acting better (who can only be written off), it is not plausibly limited to merely procedural failings, like ignorance, confusion, or weakness of will. * There seems something right about the incompatibilist thought that real freedom requires a radical ability to create yourself, by making choices undetermined by your given past. But, as Hume and many others have argued, choices must be explained by facts about who you are to be meaningfully attributed to you. Overwhelmingly, philosophers have responded to each puzzle by rejecting one of the propositions that generate it. This, I argue, is a mistake. It reflects an unduly narrow conception of rational agency. Drawing on the phenomenology of improvisation, I show how it is possible to act according to norms you make up as you go, whose content depends both epistemically and ontologically on the particular actions they govern. This enables new solutions to all three puzzles, each a substantial improvement over its predecessors.
Date of publication
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  • In Copyright
  • Wolf, Susan
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

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