Workshop: Non-Human Agency and the Standard Story of Action

September 16, 2022 - September 17, 2022
Department of Philosophy, King's College London

Bush House (SE) 6.03
Bush House South East Wing, King's College London
London WC2B 4PJ
United Kingdom

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King's College London
University of Chicago
University of Zürich
King's College London
Cambridge University
University of Chicago
University of Helsinki


King's College London
King's College London

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Workshop: Non-Human Agency and the Standard Story of Action

Date and Venue: 

16-17 September 2022

King’s College London, UK

Keynote Speakers:

Prof Hans-Johann Glock (Department of Philosophy, University of Zürich)

Prof Anton Ford (Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago)

Many philosophers endorse the ‘standard story’ of the nature of action, which explains action as bodily motion caused ‘in the right way’ by mental states, such as intentions and reasons, that are part of the sophisticated psychological life of adult human beings. This story has been challenged from various perspectives. One such challenge concerns the nature of reasons: are they mental states or facts? Another concerns the problem of deviant causation: can a non-circular analysis of ‘the right way’ for reasons to cause bodily movements be given? Yet another concerns the problem of ‘disappearing agents’: if the agent’s actions are caused by her reasons, is there any causal role left for the agent herself? 

In this two-day workshop, we hope to explore a potential challenge which so far has received little attention, namely the existence of agency in the natural world beyond human agency. We often refer to things other than humans as ‘agents’, including other animals, plants, and inanimate objects. But if these beings lack our sophisticated psychological life, how, if at all, can the standard story account for their agency? Should we deny their status as agents, revise the standard story, or discard it altogether?

The workshop will be pre-read and in person. Final papers will be circulated two weeks prior to the event.

For the full programme of talks, please visit our website.

For any inquiries about the event, please contact the organisers: 

Dan Elbro - [email protected]

Chengying Guan - [email protected]

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September 1, 2022, 9:00am BST

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