Just doing what I do: on the awareness of fluent agency

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 16 (1):155-177 (2017)
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Hubert Dreyfus has argued that cases of absorbed bodily coping show that there is no room for self-awareness in flow experiences of experts. In this paper, I argue against Dreyfus’ maxim of vanishing self-awareness by suggesting that awareness of agency is present in expert bodily action. First, I discuss the phenomenon of absorbed bodily coping by discussing flow experiences involved in expert bodily action: merging into the flow; immersion in the flow; emergence out of flow. I argue against the claim that flow experience does not involve an awareness of agency for each of these features, while conceding that fluent agency does not involve self-awareness in the thetic sense. I challenge the assumption that the awareness of fluent agency must be understood in terms of a thetic awareness of agency. Instead, I develop an Anscombean account of the awareness of fluent agency in terms of the phenomenal character of knowing one’s aims. I respond to the challenge that if an Anscombean account of the awareness of agency is to succeed, then agents must be able to answer Anscombean questions. I consider the objection that awareness of agency is not a form of self-awareness by outlining an account of self-awareness as self-synthesis that is distinct from self-perception and self-ascription, but which makes room for self-awareness in expert bodily action.

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James M. Dow
Hendrix College


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