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Guan, C.

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Defending the Reflective Deliberation View of Agential Activity in Human Actions

And How Kantian Constitutivism in (Meta)ethics Might Not Be Empirically Implausible?

We human persons can be more or less active with respect to the production of our actions. The notions of “agential activity” and “agential passivity” are used to grasp this phenomenon. For a while, there has been a vague but popular account for how to characterize these two notions, that is, “the reflective deliberation view”, according to which agential activity is the expression of our reflective or deliberative actions, whereas agential passivity is the expression of our unreflective or non-deliberative actions (Velleman, 2000; Wallace, 2006; Bratman, 2007; Korsgaard, 1996, 2008, 2009). However, the reflective deliberation view is lately challenged by Paul Katsafanas (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016), who contends that this view is wrong because it is incompatible with recent findings in empirical psychology pertaining to how actual human subjects behave in certain circumstances. In this paper, I call his argument “the Objection from Empirical Psychology”, or "OEP”. And I defend the reflective deliberation view against OEP, arguing that OEP has two problems. The first is “the problem of modal ambiguities”, which suggests that the quantity of the empirical materials laid out in OEP is still not sufficient and perhaps will never be sufficient to defeat the reflective deliberation view. The second is “the problem of L4-agency”, which suggests that the quality of these empirical materials is also deficient, because they are analyzed under a theoretical framework in which the distinctiveness of human agency is left out. Consequentially, such a pro and con is relevant to the enterprise of constitutivism in (meta)ethics. The breakdown of the reflective deliberation view of agential activity, as Katsafanas infers, entails that the Kantian project of (meta)ethical constitutivism founders on “empirical plausibility”. But if my defense is successful, it will turn out that this is not the case.

Key Words Human Actions; Self-control; Agential Activity; Agential Passivity; Reflectiveness; Constitutivism

Last modified:09 September 2016 2.48 p.m.