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Reason's Self-Actualization: An Essay on Self-Consciousness and Rational Agency

Stuchlik, Joshua (2011) Reason's Self-Actualization: An Essay on Self-Consciousness and Rational Agency. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In my dissertation I show that we cannot conceive of ourselves as embodied beings unless we know some of our physical features without observation or inference. I also argue that we have the requisite sort of self-knowledge, and that it consists in our knowledge of ourselves as intentional agents.Descartes claimed that when one is self-consciously aware of oneself, one is aware of oneself as a purely psychological being. In chapter two I argue that if his claim were correct, it would be unclear what it could mean for one to identify oneself with a human being. I then argue that self-conscious beliefs about oneself are beliefs about oneself that are not grounded on observation or inference. In chapter three I take up the task of making it plausible that we do possess the required sort of self-knowledge. I offer a novel interpretation of Anscombe's thesis that we know what we are doing intentionally without observation or inference. The key lies in the Aristotelian doctrine that action itself can be the conclusion of practical reasoning.In chapter four I reply to two objections to my account. The first is an argument for volitionalism, or the thesis that events that are describable as an agent's moving her body are acts of trying that occur prior to her bodily movements. In response, I argue for an alternative, according to which bodily action is a temporally extended process that is complete only when one's body has moved. The second argument begins from the premise that we can act intentionally without knowing that we are succeeding. I argue that this shows only that our self-conscious capacity to act intentionally is fallible in a certain respect. Conditions which potentially inhibit the success of one's doing such-and-such intentionally also inhibit one's capacity to know that one is doing so when the action is successful. Finally, in chapter five I defend a non-reductionistic account of intentional action in contrast to dominant reductionistic models. I conclude that an intentional action is simply an exercise of a rational agent's will, described as such.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Stuchlik, Joshuajms145@pitt.eduJMS145
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcDowell, Johnjmcdowel@pitt.eduJMCDOWEL
Committee MemberSetiya, Kierankis23@pitt.eduKIS23
Committee MemberMachamer, Peterpkmach@pitt.eduPKMACH
Committee MemberBrandom, Robertrbrandom@pitt.eduRBRANDOM
Date: 30 June 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 9 September 2010
Approval Date: 30 June 2011
Submission Date: 26 September 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
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: Anscombe; Aristotle; intentional action; practical reasoning; self-knowledge
Other ID:, etd-09262010-154836
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:02
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:50


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