Acting on reasons: Synchronic executive control

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There is a wide variety of cases of alienation, including (a) when an agent is alienated from her own motivational states and (b) deviant causal cases when an agent's motivational states cause her intended actions but via a deviant causal pathway. Reflecting on the variety of kinds of alienation reveals that action explanation still needs to account for the positive role that agents play in non-alienated actions in general. To fill this gap, this paper identifies a sui generis but crucial notion of control, what I call “synchronic executive control,” where agents act on their reasons, which must be distinguished from (a) endorsing one's reasons as reasonable or as the reasons for action (from the autonomy literature), and (b) other, diachronic notions of executive control such as competence, skills-based control, planning-based control, and counterfactual control generally (from especially the deviant causation literature). The presence of such executive control is crucial for explaining the role of agents in non-alienated actions, and its absence explains the lack of agency in alienation cases. The result is the identification of a relationship agents have with their reasons which unifies the variety of non-alienated actions in a novel way.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Philosophy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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