SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Pre-Reflective Self-Consciousness and Origins of Agency
(Philosophy of Mind, English)

Are non-human animals agents? Some philosophers ("Intellectualists") say "no". True action, they say, is dependent on rationality in a demanding sense: "acting for reasons", requiring self-consciousness. Others ("Anti-Intellectualists2) say "yes". There is reason to think animals are agents, because no sophisticated conceptual and metarepresentational abilities are required. Intellectualists about agency 'including John McDowell' are sometimes criticised because they seem to deny that the emergence of human agency from the natural world can be explained in a philosophically cogent way. If self-consciousness is necessary for agency, this makes agency too demanding for non-human animals and even human infants. We seem left with a choice: either reject Intellectualism or give up on explaining the natural origins of agency. In this paper I propose an account of a precursor to human rational agency that I argue can avoid this dilemma.

Drawing on recent philosophical work on nonconceptual precursors to self-consciousness, I argue that there is a logically possible precursor to human mentality. I explain how this "pre-reflective" mentality shares a structural-functional organisation with human mentality as conceived of by Intellectualists. And in virtue of this shared organisation, pre-reflective mentality can, I claim, support a pre-rational version of agency that provides a plausible intermediate to ground an explanation of the emergence of fully self-conscious human agency. Intellectualists, following work by Donald Davidson and the Pittsburgh School, require that any account of human mentality must meet constraints on its normativity and unity. Using work from contemporary philosophers including Susan Hurley, Eric Marcus and Elisabeth Camp, I show how my proposed pre-reflective mentality can meet pre-conceptual analogues of normativity and unity. And, hence, that it can plausibly ground an explanation of the emergence of human agency.

Chair: Daniel Weger
Time: 10:40-11:10, 09. September 2022 (Friday)
Location: HS E.002
Remark: (Online Talk)

Michael Hegarty 
(University of Connecticut , USA)

Testability and Meaning deco