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The Sociality of Agency

Samuel, Jack (2020) The Sociality of Agency. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Practical philosophy is dominated by two pictures of human agency: the Kantian image of a rational, empirically unaffected will and the Humean image of instrumental reasoning from desires, aims, values, or interests. Because Kantian and Humean accounts of agency emphasize the individual over the social, they lack explanatory resources important to understanding how others can matter to us as agents in the right way. Insufficiently social conceptions of agency, I argue, risk depicting agents as alienated from one another, leaving mysterious how we can get a normative grip on one another. Taking inspiration from GWF Hegel and Iris Murdoch, I develop a conception of agency on which it constitutively depends on standing in relations of mutual recognition with other agents. I argue that a crucial part of becoming an agent is becoming reflectively self-conscious of our sociality—of the historically conditioned nature of mutually recognitive relations. A significant upshot of the picture of agency that emerges is a new perspective on individual moral progress. It's not the purely personal achievement suggested on the Kantian and Humean accounts of agency. Rather, individual moral progress is a political achievement, bound up in both the inner struggle to achieve moral clarity and the social struggle for an ethical form of life.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Samuel, Jackjackhsamuel@gmail.comjos1540000-0003-0639-0778
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairPallikkathayil,
Committee CoChairMcDowell,
Committee MemberThompson,
Committee MemberManne,
Date: 8 June 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 April 2020
Approval Date: 8 June 2020
Submission Date: 9 April 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 112
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Agency, Alienation, Metaethics, Hegel, Iris Murdoch
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 16:56
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2020 16:56


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