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Failures of Agency

Irrational Behavior and Self-Understanding

Annemarie Kalis

Failures of Agency: Irrational Behavior and Self-Understanding begins by exploring classic philosophical questions regarding the phenomenon of weakness of will or akrasia: doing A, even though all things considered, you judge it best to do B. Does this phenomenon really exist and if so, how should it be explained? Author Annemarie Kalis provides an historical overview of some traditional answers to these questions and addresses the main question: how does the phenomenon of 'going against your own judgment' relate to the idea that we are rational beings? She elaborates on the notion of rational agency and shows how different types of behavior express or fail to express our rational agency. This leads to the speculation of what is needed for akratic action to be free action. A novel position is developed, stating that certain widespread philosophical accounts of free action must conclude that 'going against your own judgment' is necessarily unfree. This also requires a reflection on possible implications for moral responsibility. Would it mean that people cannot be held accountable for irrational behavior? Kalis offers insight on whether everyday irrational behavior differs from irrational behavior occurring in the context of psychiatric dysfunction, and develops a view on how we should understand ourselves when we do something other than what we judge best. Written for philosophers, psychologists and psychiatrists interested in issues of irrationality and philosophy of action, this is an indispensable book for both professionals and students interested in interdisciplinary endeavors in the science of mind and behavior. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 194Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-7391-4888-4 • Hardback • October 2011 • $80.00 • (£49.95)
978-0-7391-7035-9 • eBook • November 2011 • $79.99 • (£49.95)
Annemarie Kalis is researcher in philosophy at Utrecht University.
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. The Debate on Akrasia
Chapter 3. Action, Agency, and Rational Agency
Chapter 4. Control
Chapter 5. Failures of Agency
Chapter 6. Moral Responsibility
Chapter 7. The Boundaries of Agency
Chapter 8. Explaining Failures of Agency
Chapter 9. Failures of Agency and the Self
Kalis develops a philosophical interpretation of acting contrary to one’s better judgment that is designed to reveal what is fascinating about such behavior and to explain its bearing on our view of ourselves as rational agents. This wide-ranging, engaging exploration of human agency is both philosophically and scientifically well informed.
Alfred R. Mele, Florida State University

What would it be to be perfectly rational and never act against one's better judgment? And what does it mean for our self-understanding that we're just not like that? Annemarie Kalis gives a sustained, lucid analysis of these conceptual questions that builds upon a rich variety of cases of failure of agency, ranging from the everyday one beer too many to serious psychopathology. She convincingly argues that for us human beings, 'perfect' rationality is a standard as unattainable as immortality. Our failings as agents turn out to provide crucial insights into who we are. This book fills an important lacuna by providing a bridge between theoretical questions of action theory and practical issues of morality and the self. It is required reading for anyone interested in practical rationality, philosophers and psychologists alike.
Thomas Müller,, Utrecht University