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Title: An Anscombean approach to animal agency
Author: Cash, Luke
ISNI:       0000 0004 7661 1860
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The ultimate aim of this thesis is to explain how the theory of action found in Anscombe's Intention can be modified to deliver a plausible account of non-human animal agency (henceforth, animal agency). More specifically, it is an attempt to develop her account in a way that respects the Aristotelian insight that animals act in ways that differ, in certain fundamental respects, from the processes of growth and self-maintenance found in plants, on the one hand, and the self-conscious actions characteristic of mature human beings, on the other. The negative aim is to show that the theory of action that constitutes the received backdrop in the study of animal minds is ill-suited for the task. This is what I call the Standard Approach to Animal Agency and, despite its widespread acceptance in comparative psychology, cognitive ethology, and the philosophy of animal minds, I argue that it faces serious problems. This thesis divides roughly into two halves corresponding to these respective aims. In the first half I argue against the Standard Approach. Amongst other things, I suggest that the theory suffers from a tendency to take the notion of action for granted. The result is an oversimplified metaphysics that is ill-prepared to account for the fact that the activities characteristic of animal life are instrumentally structured processes. In the constructive half of the thesis I develop an Anscombean alternative that takes the structure of action as its starting point. On this view, expressions of animal agency are understood as a distinctive kind of material process. After explaining Anscombe's account of intentional action, I adapt and develop these ideas into a theory of animal agency.
Supervisor: Potter, Michael Sponsor: University of Cambridge ; Royal Institute of Philosophy
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Agency ; Action ; Animals