Three conceptions of rational agency

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (3):217-242 (1999)
Rational agency may be thought of as intentional activity that is guided by the agent's conception of what they have reason to do. The paper identifies and assesses three approaches to this phenomenon, which I call internalism, meta-internalism, and volitionalism. Internalism accounts for rational motivation by appeal to substantive desires of the agent's that are conceived as merely given; I argue that it fails to do full justice to the phenomenon of guidance by one's conception of one's reasons. Meta-internalism explains this phenomenon by postulating higher-order dispositions, consitutive of (rational) agency itself, which causally interact with the agent's normative beliefs to produce corresponding motivations to action. I show that meta-internalism comes to grief over cases of akrasia, insofar as it leaves no room for the capacity for rational guidance when agents voluntarily act at variance with their judgments about what they have reason to do. Volitionalism, I contend, improves on both internalism and meta-internalism. Its distinctive feature is the postulation of a kind of motivation that is directly subject to the agent's control, and independent of the dispositions and desires to which the agent is passively subject.
Keywords agency  akrasia  desire
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1023/A:1009946911117
 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
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,411
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

206 ( #17,522 of 1,924,749 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

6 ( #140,667 of 1,924,749 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.