Activity and Passivity in Reflective Agency<sup>1</sup>

Paul Katsafanas

in Oxford Studies in Metaethics

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199606375
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729478 | DOI:
Activity and Passivity in Reflective Agency1

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Many philosophers maintain that there is a distinction between acts that the agent plays an active role in producing, and acts that issue from the agent in a more passive fashion. According to the standard account, we can make sense of this distinction by maintaining that reflective or deliberative acts are paradigmatic cases of an agent’s playing an active role in the production of action. This chapter argues that this standard account is mistaken. Reflective or deliberative actions will seem to be active only if we conflate three claims: (1) that choice causes action, (2) that motives do not determine choice, and (3) that reflection suspends the effects of motives. The chapter argues that while (1) and (2) are true, (3) is false. Further, (3) is needed to support the claim that reflective acts are active. Given the falsity of (3), the chapter shows that reflective acts are not necessarily more active than unreflective ones. The chapter closes by suggesting a new model of agential activity.

Keywords: agential activity; activity; passivity; deliberation; choice; reflection; agency; action; motivation; motive

Chapter.  16584 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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