In John Shand (ed.), Central Issues of Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell (2009)
We are agents. Not only are we capable of acting, but considerable portions of our lives are taken up by our doings, by exercises of our agency. Our actions and doings are essential to much of what we cherish most in our lives, and—arguably—our death can be equated with the permanent loss of our agency. Under these respects, we differ from inanimate objects, artifacts, chemical substances, and natural phenomena such as—for instance—planets, tables, acids, and lightning-storms. When we speak of the ‘actions’ of these things, we simply refer to the operations of some of their characteristic causal powers. But when speak of our own actions and doings, we refer to phenomena that, at least in their paradigmatic form, have all of the following: they are directed at some aim or purpose, they are the subject matter of practical deliberation, the objects of our intentions, the chief manifestations of our freedom, the primary targets of accountability and moral evaluation, and the characteristic objects of demands for rational intelligibility and justification.
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