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From the Agent's Point of View

Phillips, EH; (2016) From the Agent's Point of View. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This is an essay about the role of reasons in explaining human thought and action. Three plausible-seeming ideas appear to be in tension here: that all reasons for action are facts, that we can often explain an action as rational by ascribing a false belief to its agent, and that we always explain actions as rational by identifying the agent’s reasons for acting. One of the aims of this thesis is to show how we can gain a clear understanding of the first two ideas if we are willing to sacrifice the third. I distinguish two forms of ‘rationalising’ action-explanation: ‘worldly rationalisations’, which explain an action by stating the reason for which it was done, and ‘psychologised rationalisations’, which explain an action by stating something about what the agent thought, or how things seemed to them. I outline how, if we take sufficiently seriously the idea of the agent’s point of view, we can make sense of the way psychologised rationalisations explain actions as rational without implying that the agent acted for any reason. This raises an important question: is psychologised rationalisation all we need in order to make sense of agents’ behaviour as rational? That is, is the role of worldly rationalisation reducible to that of psychologised rationalisation? Early in the thesis I argue that considerations familiar from the literature on the nature of mental states suggest that this reductive approach to worldly rationalisation is not obligatory: there is no conclusive a priori argument against the autonomy of worldly rationalisation. In the final chapter, I present an argument which, if successful, would show that the reduction is positively undesirable. The (tentative) conclusion is that we should recognise a fundamental role for reasons themselves in explaining our thought and behaviour.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: From the Agent's Point of View
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1503261
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