On not making up one’s own mind

Synthese 197 (7):2765-2781 (2020)
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Abstract

In believing or acting on authority, an agent appears to believe or act without making up her own mind about what is the case or what to do. How is this possible? How can an agent make up her mind about a theoretical or practical question, and so believe or act intentionally, without doing so for herself? This paper argues that the standard account available in the literature of how it is that an agent can make up her mind without doing so for herself, an account framed in terms of Joseph Raz’s notion of preemptive reasons, fails to adequately distinguish our rational dependence on other agents from reliance on ordinary instruments. It then offers an alternative account of what it is to make up one’s mind without doing so for oneself, one that focuses on the way in which the kind of rational responsibility that accrues to instances of settling a theoretical or practical question can be interpersonally distributed between agents and authorities.

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