Reason, Agency and Understanding

Paul Gilbert and Kathleen Lennon

in The World, the Flesh and the Subject

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780748614981
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652495 | DOI:
Reason, Agency and Understanding

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This chapter looks at the model of reason and agency that has informed Sartre’s sharp distinction between rational purposive activity and emotional behaviour. It traces the move from an intellectualist model of agency, informed by deliberation employing impersonal and universal methods of reasoning, to a conception of engaged agency, whose rationality is immanent within the experiences of embodied agents within the world. The imaginary shape of our world, which makes possible projective projects within it, is one into which we are initiated by culture. This process is discussed in an attempt to resolve three problems that it appears to face. One is the problem of conservatism. How do changes come in our ways of understanding our worlds? The second is the question of reflective and critical thinking. If we are initiated into ways of experiencing, which become second nature to us, what space is there for critical reflection? The third issue confronts difference. Given differences within and across cultures, as well as within different aspects of ourselves, how can we understand different ways of experiencing and rationally evaluate them? These are the questions addressed in the chapter.

Keywords: Sartre; rational purposive activity; emotional behaviour; engaged agency; intellectualist model

Chapter.  12307 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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