Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 815–825 | Cite as

Mental Agency as Self-Regulation

  • Leon de BruinEmail author
  • Fleur Jongepier
  • Derek Strijbos


The article proposes a novel approach to mental agency that is inspired by Victoria McGeer’s work on self-regulation. The basic idea is that certain mental acts (e.g., judging that p) leave further work to be done for an agent to be considered an authoritative self-ascriber of corresponding dispositional mental states (e.g., believing that p). First, we discuss Richard Moran’s account of avowals, which grounds first-person authority in deliberative, self-directed agency. Although this view is promising, we argue that it ultimately fails to confront the empirical gap between occurrent judgments and dispositional beliefs. Second, we show how Victoria McGeer's account of self-regulation allows us to bridge this gap by emphasizing that avowals are only reliable and authoritative insofar as we take certain steps to live up to the commitments inherent in our self-ascriptions. Third, we address the question whether and to what extent self-regulation can be seen as a form of mental agency. Unlike the ‘pure’ deliberative form of mental agency advocated by Moran, which is direct, conscious and intra-personal, we follow McGeer and argue for a notion of mental agency as an (often) indirect, unconscious and inter-personal process of self-regulation.


Implicit Association Test Implicit Bias Mental Agency Rational Deliberation Dispositional Belief 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Naomi Kloosterboer and two anonymous referees for their valuable comments and suggestions. During the writing of this article, Leon de Bruin’s research was supported by a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Templeton World Charity Foundation. Fleur Jongepier's research was supported by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (research project 322-20-003).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leon de Bruin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fleur Jongepier
    • 2
  • Derek Strijbos
    • 2
  1. 1.VU UniversityAmsterdamNetherlands
  2. 2.Radboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands

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