Pathologies of Agency

In The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Agency (forthcoming)
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This chapter aims to distinguish between pathologies of agency in the strict sense and mere sources of impediments or distortion. Expanding on a recent notion of necessarily less-than-successful agency, it complements a mainstream approach to mental disorders and anomalous psychological conditions in the philosophy of mind and action. According this approach, the interest of such clinical case studies is heuristic, to differentiate between facets of agency that are functionally and conceptually separate even though they typically come together. Yet, in the absence of independent criterion for a pathology of as opposed to inner obstacle to agency, this heuristic is at risk of becoming circular or uninformative, falling back on a clinical diagnosis it is meant to take as a starting point only. The chapter develops such a criterion and shows how it could work tracking agential achievement across two core dimensions of agency: planning and responsiveness to reasons. The discussion concludes with some implications on assessing decisional capacity and safeguarding agent autonomy in psychiatric settings.

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Lubomira Radoilska
University of Kent


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