SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Reasons-Responsiveness and Rational Blind Spots
(Action Theory, English)

It is commonly held that akratic actions are a subclass of free actions while compulsive actions are a subclass of unfree actions. But in virtue of what are akratic action free and compulsive actions unfree? A prominent type of approach is to spell out free will in terms of a special dispositional property of the agent, her reasons-responsiveness or rational capacity (RR). The relevant rational capacities are global capacities, according to RR-accounts, capacities agents keep even if they cannot manifest them in their actual circumstances. The sense of capacity RR-accounts latch onto is then comparable to the sense in which a glass wrapped in bubble wrap keeps its disposition to break.
This model of free will accounts for the difference between akrasia and compulsion as follows: Akratic agents (i) keep RR and (ii) their failure to exercise that capacity explains their action. Compulsive agents don't keep RR, so something else, like an irresistible desire, explains their action.
I argue that the RR-solution is flawed. RR-accounts cannot handle rational blind spots. Rational blind spots are a kind of Achilles Heel to an agent's rational capacities: highly local incapacities to respond to a very particular type of reason. If a rational blind spot is triggered, then, because the agent actually fails to respond to the type of reason relevant to the circumstances she is in, her action is unfree. But she keeps the global capacity to respond to the relevant reasons and her failure to exercise this capacity explains her action. This is because RR-accounts focus on the global capacity to respond to reasons, which an agent keeps even if she actually fails to exercise it. So if agents act on the basis of blind spots, they satisfy (i) and (ii), but they nevertheless act compulsively. There is therefore a type of compulsion -- blind spot compulsion -- that RR-accounts are structurally incapable of accounting for.

Chair: Albert Anglberger
Time: 15:10-15:40, 15 September 2017 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.004
Remark: CHANGE. The talk is cancelled!

David Heering 
(University of Leeds, UK)

David Heering is a PhD student at University of Leeds. His PhD project focuses on the relationship between our capacities to recognize and act for reasons and free will. His research interests include metnormativity and metaethics, especially theories of rationality, as well as the philosophy of action.

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