Self-Evaluation and Action
In this paper I will argue that to conceive of our desires as simply given to us (in a special way), as instrumentalists do, is inconsistent on the following grounds: unless we understand desire and action as being internally and necessarily connected (thereby following Aristotle) instead of as two causally related entities that can be identified independently of one another we cannot begin to make sense of the concept of agency. More specifically, to understand animal agency is to conceive of acting not merely as being causally affected by one’s desires to do a certain thing. Rather, the active animal is being affected in a way that makes it subjectively aware of the object of the corresponding activity by virtue of doing the activity. Purely causal accounts of action, I will claim, cannot account for (the importance of) such self-awareness since all that counts for them is that some action be taken to satisfy the objects of one’s given desires; there is no subjective centre of action, and therefore no self.
KeywordsIntentional Action Animal Action Human Animal Action Causation Mental Attitude
I would like to thank Fabrice Teroni and Julien Deonna for their both insightful and helpful comments to an earlier draft.
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