David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Inquiry 52 (3):217-231 (2009)
Are animals agents? This question demands a prior answer to the question of what an agent is. The paper argues that we ought not to think of this as merely a matter of choosing from a range of alternative definitional stipulations. Evidence from developmental psychology is offered in support of the view that a basic concept of agency is a very early natural acquisition, which is established prior to the development of any full-blown propositional attitude concepts. Then it is argued that whatever one makes of the developmental evidence, it is in any case arguable on other grounds that the concept of agency as we have it in adulthood remains perfectly comprehensible independently of any reference to the more sophisticated propositional attitudes. Any reluctance we might feel to ascribe such things as beliefs to non-human animals, therefore, need not stand in the way of the claim that they are agents, nevertheless. The paper attempts to characterise the core of this basic agency concept, and discusses, albeit briefly, the question how we ought to decide which animals are to be thought of as falling under it. It concludes with some speculations about the nature of the intellectual currents which have made the shape of this important concept so hard for us to discern.
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Citations of this work BETA
James Barham (2012). Normativity, Agency, and Life. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):92-103.
Jan Deckers (2011). Should Whiteheadians Be Vegetarians? A Critical Analysis of the Thoughts of Hartshorne and Dombrowski. Journal of Animal Ethics 1 (2):195-209.
Neil Levy (2013). Are We Agents at All? Helen Steward's Agency Incompatibilism. Inquiry 56 (4):1-14.
Edmund Henden (2012). Addictive Actions. Philosophical Psychology 26 (3):362-382.
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