Operari Sequitur Esse

Hermann Schmitz’s attitudinal theory of agency, freedom, and responsibility

Authored by: Henning Nörenberg

The Routledge Handbook of Phenomenology of Agency

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138098978
eBook ISBN: 9781315104249
Adobe ISBN:


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According to a widespread account of human agency, the usual way to understand an action is to know what caused the conduct in question not in a purely physical sense, but rather in terms of motivation or reason (cf. Gallagher and Zahavi 2008: 157). In this perspective, a satisfactory account of why I am walking to the fridge would not entail many details about the connections between my neuronal and muscle activities. Instead, one would expect information about specific connections between some of my beliefs and desires on the basis of which, for instance, my intention of having a drink is formed: I φ in order to Γ. In this sense, actions are intentional. In many cases, however, I act before I have a chance to deliberately decide to act:

If, upon approaching the bus stop, I see the bus pulling away, I might start running to catch it. If you stop me and ask, ‘Are you trying to catch the bus?’ my answer would be yes, that was my intention.

(Gallagher and Zahavi 2008: 159)

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