The unity and disunity of agency

Effective agency, according to contemporary Kantians, requires a unity of purpose both at a time, in order that we may eliminate conflict among our motives, and over time, because many of the things we do form part of longer-term projects and make sense only in the light of these projects and life plans. Call this the unity of agency thesis. This thesis can be regarded as a normative constraint on accounts of personal identity and indeed on accounts of what it is to have the life of a person in the broad, rather than narrowly biological sense. It is also a fundamental condition of social life that persons within society fulfill a range of longitudinal roles: parenthood is one such obvious example, as are teachers, health professionals, engineers, artists, and many others. The fulfillment of these and other valuable social roles requires that agents have the capacity to rationally conceive of themselves as engaged in these roles and subject to the demands of them. To be unable to fulfill any such longitudinal social roles is to have a life deficient in value. The unity of agency is thus, we argue, something we rationally strive for, and something to be morally promoted. Psychiatric states that undermine the unity of agency are morally and rationally disvaluable. Using the example of dissociation, we explain how one such state may have this undermining or disruptive effect on the unity of agency. The therapeutic ends for psychiatry in conditions involving such states are thus seen more globally as the restoration of effective agency, that is, unified agency.
Keywords Agency  Dissociation  Disunity  Science  Unity
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1353/ppp.2004.0020
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,641
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Learning From Disunity.Jennifer Radden - 2003 - Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 10 (4):357-359.
Normative Agency.Jeanette Kennett & Steve Matthews - 2008 - In Catriona MacKenzie Kim Atkins (ed.), Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. New York: Routledge.
The Appearance of Unity: A Higher-Order Interpretation of the Unity of Consciousness.Josh Weisberg - 2001 - Proceedings of the Twenty-Third Annual Conference of The Cognitive Science Society.
Scientific Practice and the Disunity of Physics.Andreas Hüttemann - 1998 - Philosophia Naturalis 35 (1):209-222.
Experience, Agency, and Personal Identity.Marya Schechtman - 2005 - Social Philosophy and Policy 22 (2):1-24.
Unity of Agency and Volition: Some Personal Reflections.Scott E. Weiner - 2003 - Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 10 (4):369-372.
The Concept of Unified Agency in Nietzsche, Plato, and Schiller.Paul Katsafanas - 2011 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 49 (1):87-113.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

65 ( #79,570 of 2,158,194 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #356,322 of 2,158,194 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums