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Title: Agency : humans, animals and objects
Author: Quinn, Thomas James
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 8643
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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My aim in this thesis is to develop an account of the powers that are fundamental to human agency, by drawing out the similarities between human agency, the agency of non-human animals, and the agency of inanimate objects. Many accounts characterise our actions in terms of mental capacities unique to human agents. But focusing on what human agency has in common with agency of other kinds provides a novel perspective from which we can investigate the features of our agency that receive less attention in the literature. I develop the account by answering two closely related questions, both of which provide the opportunity to draw out the connections between human agency, the agency of non-human animals and the agency of inanimate objects. The first question is: what are the similarities and differences between dispositions and abilities? The second question is: what are the similarities and differences between human agency and agency of other kinds? I argue against the idea that the difference between dispositions and abilities lies in the former powers being necessitated to manifest in certain conditions. Rather, what distinguishes dispositions and abilities is that the exercise of ability involves selfmovement on the part of the agent. In light of this distinction, I argue that all human actions are exercises of bodily abilities of a kind possessed by many nonhuman animals. Possession of these abilities does not require high-level mental capacities, but only that the agent possesses a conscious perspective. There are many ways in which the things that we do require uniquely human mental capacities, but our agency is grounded in powers of a kind held in common with non-human agents.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available