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The essence of agency is discovered, not defined: a minimal mindreading argument

  • Andrew Sims
Article

Abstract

In this paper I give a novel argument for this view that the AGENT concept has an externalist semantics. The argument argues the conclusion from two premises: first, that our first relationships to agents is through a subpersonal mechanism which requires for its function an agential proto-concept which refers directly; and second, that there is a continuity of reference between this proto-concept and the mature concept AGENT. I argue the first on the basis of results in the developmental psychology of social cognition. I argue the second on the basis of a process of elimination, by considering three possibilities for the relationship between the two concepts. On the basis of these two premises the conclusion is drawn that AGENT is a concept that refers directly. That has the following consequences for the philosophy of action: first, that “action” is not an appropriate term for reductive analysis, as the causal theory of action assumes; and second, that we should be looking to the appropriate empirical disciplines for an elucidation of the concept.

Keywords

Mindreading Agency Free will Natural kinds Reference 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Helen Steward and my colleagues at CEFISES for comments and advice on an earlier version of this paper. This work was funded by the Action Recherche Concertée “Free Will and Causality.”

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut supérieur de philosophieUniversité catholique de LouvainOttignies-Louvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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