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Many forms of doing: a surprising source for pluralism about agency

August 10, 2015

Excerpt from an OUPblog article, published on 8th August, by Christopher Yeomans, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Purdue University, College of Liberal Arts. He is the author of The Expansion of Autonomy: Hegel's Pluralistic Philosophy of Action, which is now available on Oxford Scholarship Online.

The Expansion of Autonomy

"Since roughly the middle of the last century, there has been a thriving philosophical debate about the nature of action. What is it that makes us agents rather than patients? What makes us responsible for the things that we do rather than the things that happen to us? And what kinds of capacities do such agents have to have to bear different kinds of responsibility – is it enough just to have desires of which one is aware, or does one have to be able to choose between them, or does one further have to be able to judge those desires by principles anyone could share? The thread that generally holds this discussion together is the idea that whatever the correct answers are to these questions, they are the correct answers for all agents; there is fundamentally only one form of agency. But what if this assumption were wrong, though wrong in an instructive and tractable way? What if there were multiple forms of agency in human life, but not so many that they couldn’t be identified and related to each other in visible and significant ways?"

Discover more: Learn more about Hegel's views on the nature of action in Christopher's article 'Many forms of doing'. The first chapter of The Expansion of Autonomy, 'Virtue and Individuality', is now freely available until the end of September. Get access to the full text of this book, as well as over 1,500 Oxford Philosophy titles, by recommending OSO to your librarian today.