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The Other Side of Agency

  • Soran Reader (a1)

In our philosophical tradition and our wider culture, we tend to think of persons as agents. This agential conception is flattering, but in this paper I will argue that it conceals a more complex truth about what persons are. In 1. I set the issues in context. In 2. I critically explore four features commonly presented as fundamental to personhood in versions of the agential conception: action, capability, choice and independence. In 3. I argue that each of these agential features presupposes a non-agential feature: agency presupposes patiency, capability presupposes incapability, choice presupposes necessity and independence presupposes dependency. In 4. I argue that such non-agential features, as well as being implicit within the agential conception, are as apt to be constitutive of personhood as agential features, and in 5. I conclude.

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M-A. Warren , Moral Status (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)

M. Nussbaum The Future of Feminist Liberalism’, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 74 (2000), 4779

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V. Das , Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007)

S. Reader , ‘Does a Basic Needs Approach Need Capabilities?’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 14 (2006), 337350, 343–6

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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