The shape of agency: Control, action, skill, knowledge

Oxford: Oxford University Press (2021)
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Abstract

The Shape of Agency offers interlinked explanations of the basic building blocks of agency, as well as its exemplary instances. The first part offers accounts of a collection of related phenomena that have long troubled philosophers of action: control over behaviour, non-deviant causation, and intentional action. These accounts build on earlier work in the causalist tradition, and undermine the claims made by many that causalism cannot offer a satisfying account of non-deviant causation, and therefore fails as an account of intentional action. The second part turns to modes of agentive excellence—ways that agents display quality of form—providing a novel account of skill, including an account of the ways that agents display more or less skill. Shepherd discusses the role of knowledge in skill, and concludes that while knowledge is often important, it is inessential. This leads to a discussion of the way that knowledge of action and knowledge of how to act informs action execution. Knowledgeable action includes a unique epistemic underpinning: in knowledgeable action, the agent has authoritative knowledge of what she is doing and how she is doing it when and because she is poised to control her action by way of practical reasoning.

Author's Profile

Joshua Shepherd
Carleton University

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