Diachronic Agency

In The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Agency. pp. 336-347 (2022)
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Abstract

This chapter discusses the structure of our temporally extended agency. We do not have the power to act directly at a distance, so any of our temporally extended projects must be sustained over its temporal unfolding by momentary actions. We need both the capacity to organize these momentary steps in light of a synoptic overview of the extended activity as a whole and to sustain our motivation to continue to pursue the extended activity. Hence, the distinctive mode in which we act over time is that of ’planning agency,’ which requires a form of temporal identification that goes beyond mere psychological continuity. I then discuss the differences in internal structure between merely continuous and integrated activities, and between telic and atelic ones. I provide a taxonomy of the different kinds of temporal goods and values and how these structures might bear on the risk of crisis of meaning in our temporal existence. I then touch briefly on the issue of how our mortality might make a difference to the structure of what we find valuable and how it relates to the temporal features of our agency. In the closing section, I discuss the effects of the moving temporal location of the agent (with her local executive powers) relative to her extended pursuits, including the asymmetries generated by the distinction between past and future stages of the activity and the moving horizon of what the agent can anticipate and (indirectly) control.

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Luca Ferrero
University of California, Riverside

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