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Zijlstra, L.

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

In Search of Self-Governance: Questions about Authority and Self-Governing Policies


In this paper I take issue with Bratman’s claim that an appeal to self-governing policies solves two problems in the theory of action: the problem of agential authority and the problem of subjective normative authority. Bratman defines self-governing policies as a special kind of higher-order intentions whose roles involve organizing and coordinating the agent’s temporally extended life by constituting and supporting Lockean continuities and connections. In light of the role that these policies are supposed to fulfill for human agents, Bratman claims that acting on self-governing policies provides human beings with full-blown self-governance.

Notwithstanding the merits of Bratman’s theory, the outcome of my investigation, by discussing both conceptual problems and recent findings in empirical sciences, is that the theory cannot provide the relevant kinds of authority. Consequently, acting on self-governing policies alone is not necessary to provide human beings with self-governance. Moreover, while claiming to endorse a non-homuncular conception of agency, I show that Bratman’s theory holds an implicit assumption about the participation of the agent beyond the functioning of self-governing policies.

Unfortunately, this conflicts with Bratman’s general aim to build a theory that remains within a non-homuncular account of agency. Contrary to Bratman, I argue that instant actions made in the absence of self-governing policies can have agential authority. If correct, a different entity than self-governing policies constitutes self-governance, which implies self-governance is not necessarily related to the agent’s cross-temporal identity. Bratman’s account of self-governing policies does not provide necessary components of self-governance but does contain valuable insights for further theorizing.

Laatst gewijzigd:04 november 2013 13:44