Agency is Distinct from Autonomy

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Both autonomy and agency play central roles in the emerging enactive vocabulary. Although some treat these concepts as practically synonymous, others have sought to be more explicit about the conditions required for agency over and above autonomy. I attempt to be self-conscious about the role of the observer (or scientist) in such discussions, and emphasise that the concept of agency, in particular, is deeply entwined with the nature of the observer and the framing of the observation. This is probably well known to enactivists, but runs the risk of being badly misunderstood if it is not made explicit. A heightened awareness of the role of the observer in the attribution of agency may allow us to make advances in questions in which progress is hindered by assuming a single split between subject and object. I argue that human experience is characterized by our embedding in webs of meaning arising from our participation in systems of many sorts, and that this richness demands a corresponding lightness of touch with respect to the identification of agentive subjects.
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Archival date: 2014-11-05
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