Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 8, pp 2119–2137 | Cite as

Flexible occurrent control

  • Denis BuehlerEmail author


There has recently been much interest in the role of attention in controlling action. The role has been mischaracterized as an element in necessary and sufficient conditions on agential control. In this paper I attempt a new characterization of the role. I argue that we need to understand attentional control in order to fully understand agential control. To fully understand agential control we must understand paradigm exercises of agential control. Three important accounts of agential control—intentional, reflective, and goal-represented control—do not fully explain such exercises. I argue that understanding them requires understanding how deployments of visual attention implement flexible occurrent control, or a capacity to flexibly adjust the degree of control that individuals exercise over their actions. While such deployments of attention are neither necessary nor sufficient for exercising agential control, they constitute an attentional skill for controlling action, understanding which is central to fully understanding agential control. We can appreciate its centrality if we appreciate that this attentional skill for controlling action is plausibly crucial to acting non-negligently.


Agential control Action Attention Skill Negligence 



I am especially grateful to Tyler Burge for his help with this paper. I also thank Harry Frankfurt, John Garthoff, Pamela Hieronymi, Kevin Lande, Yannig Luthra, Eliot Michaelson, Ian Phillips, and Michael Rescorla for their comments. I have benefited from reactions at the Pacific APA 2014 in San Diego, the First Brentano Workshop with M.G.F. Martin in Tübingen 2015, and the Oxford Philosophy of Mind WIP 2016.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophisches SeminarUniversität TübingenTübingenGermany

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