Rational Agency and the Struggle to Believe What Your Reasons Dictate

In Cristina Borgoni, Dirk Kindermann & Andrea Onofri (eds.), The Fragmented Mind. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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According to an influential view that I call agentialism, our capacity to believe and intend directly on the basis of reasons—our rational agency—has a normative significance that distinguishes it from other kinds of agency (Bilgrami 2006, Boyle 2011, Burge 1996, Korsgaard 1996, Moran 2001). Agentialists maintain that insofar as we exercise rational agency, we bear a special kind of responsibility for our beliefs and intentions; and it is only those attitudes that represent the exercise of rational agency that are truly our own. In this paper I challenge these agentialist claims. My argument centers on a case in which a thinker struggles to align her belief to her reasons, and succeeds only by resorting to non-rational methods. Because she relies on non-rational methods, this revision of her belief does not express her rational agency, in the agentialist sense. I argue that this process nevertheless expresses her capacities for rationality and agency; that she is responsible for the belief shaped through this process; and that the revised belief is truly her own. So rational agency is not distinctive in the ways that agentialists contend.
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