The phenomenology of agency and the cognitive sciences

Authored by: Shaun Gallagher

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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When engaged in action, the experience of agency includes the experience of one’s actions and of oneself. This is a relational phenomenology, that is, it is not just an experience of an action as unrelated to me, and not just an experience of myself without some kind of relation to an action or set of actions. Part of this relation involves the notion of intention, and the kind of intention in play. Both action and intention, and therefore, the experience of agency, are complex phenomena. Some aspects of action are non-conscious and sub-personal; others involve consciousness. To understand the phenomenology of agency, we need to understand the complexity involved in action and intention. Moreover, since an individual’s action, and the experience of agency, most often occur in social contexts where joint action is possible, and social practices predominate, it’s not enough to look at processes that are merely individual.

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