Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy

PHIL 481: Philosophy of Action

Phil 481: Philosophy of Action

The Generic Catalog Description

This course deals with the distinction between action and mere behavior. Related topics: causal vs. teleological views, intention, reasons for action (as distinct from causes of action), practical identity, free agency, practical reason, deliberation and choice, the relationship between emotional capacities and responsible agency..

PHIL 481: Philosophy of Action

Diana Meyers

This course focuses on a topic in action theory variously called “personal autonomy” or “free agency.”  The core questions this topic raises include:  (1) What is required for a person’s conduct to be genuinely her/his own?  (2) What is involved in having control over your life?  These are important issues in everyday life and are of special relevance to the concept of informed consent in bioethics.

In the first weeks of the semester, the course will look at Harry Frankfurt’s now classic theory of second order identification and authenticity together with his recent (2002) clarifications (and/or ¬revisions) of his earlier views.  Then it will examine assorted well-known alternatives to Frankfurt’s approach.  Following on Frankfurt, the course follows J. David Velleman’s synthesis of experimental psychology and action theory. 

In the second half of the semester, the readings take into account the unjust social and political contexts in which selves are formed and agency is exercised.  Readings include Natalie Stoljar’s arguments for a value-saturated account of autonomy, John Christman’s arguments for a historical, value-neutral account, and Catriona MacKenzie’s and Shaun Gallagher’s work on narration, embodiment, and autonomy. 

Graduate students can take this seminar to satisfy the ethics/social-political requirement and the Anglo-American requirement.  Readings in the second half of the semester will be particularly pertinent to my Poverty, Coercion, and Human Rights Conference, April 2012.