Actions and outcomes: Two aspects of agency

Synthese 157 (2):241 - 265 (2007)
Abstract
Agency can be construed as both the manner in which autonomous individuals embark on particular courses of action (or inaction), and the relationship between such agents and the outcomes of the courses of action on which they embark. A promising strategy for understanding both senses of agency consists in the combination of a modal logic of agency and branching time semantics. Such is the strategy behind stit theory, the theory of agentive action developed by Nuel Belnap and others. However, stit theoretic evaluations of the agentive relationship between agents and outcomes that are uncertain—due to either the presence of indeterminism, or the possible intervention of other agents—yield counterintuitive results. This paper develops a pair of alternative operators (the “act” operators) for modeling agency with respect to uncertain outcomes. Unlike the stit-theoretic model, the act-theoretic model of agency with respect to a particular state of affairs does not require that the state of affairs be realized in every possible history. If the state of affairs in fact obtains in the actual history, and its obtaining was dependent on the agent’s pursuing a particular course of action, then the agent is deemed agentive under act theory.
Keywords Agency  Action  Responsibility  Branching time  Temporal logic  Choice
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