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Understanding Human Agency$
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Erasmus Mayr

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199606214

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199606214.001.0001

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The problem of human agency

The problem of human agency

(p.5) 1 The problem of human agency
Understanding Human Agency

Erasmus Mayr

Oxford University Press

The first chapter develops the so-called problem of human agency. It is claimed that there are three commitments which are fundamental parts of our self-understanding as human agents: The commitments to agential activity, our place in the natural order, and reasons-explanations of intentional actions. However, when we start to spell out the implications of these commitments, they come into conflict with one another, which raises the question whether our self-understanding as human agents is irremediably flawed. It is argued that each of the standard approaches in contemporary philosophy of action – agent-causalist, naturalist event-causalist, and intentionalist theories – can be seen as a result of the same kind of reaction to this problem, namely of ‘privileging’ one of the three elements at the expense of the others.

Keywords:   agential activity, reasons-explanations, natural order, agent-causalism, naturalist event-causalism, intentionalism

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