The seventh and the eighth in the series of special invited lectures for Roots of Responsibility will be given by Professor Pamela Hieronymi (UCLA) and Professor Anton Ford (Chicago), in a one-day in-person event on Sunday 30 October, 2022.
The event will feature the two lectures, responses from the members of the Roots of Responsibility project, general Q&A, and discussion. The titles and abstracts of the two lectures are below.
Attendance to the event is free, but space is limited, and registration is essential. If you are interested in attending, please register from the following Eventbrite page:
Pamela Hieronymi - No Inertia in Consciousness
ABSTRACT. Sartre claims that there is no inertia in consciousness. Like many of his claims, this seems patently false. However, also like many of his claims, it can be interpreted in way in which it is both true and illuminating. Consciousness, for Sartre, is the ability to “negate.” As I will understand this, it includes the ability to entertain and answer questions. Our “consciousness,” thus understood, will include our beliefs and intentions (regardless of whether we are aware of them “consciously”). It is tempting to think of our beliefs and intentions as states of mind that are produced, at a time, by a discrete episode of mental activity, which then persist, in the mind, until revised or eliminated at some later point, by some later episode of mental activity—as if they were documents on computer. So understood, belief and intention possess their own inertia, so to speak. I will argue that this way of thinking about belief and intention badly distorts both our relation to them and our responsibility for them. Rather than think of them as if they were items stored in memory on a computer—as something you might act upon intermittently to run, update, or delete—we should think of them instead as something more like our posture: they rely, at each moment, on our on-going activity, and so are, themselves, a kind of activity, for which we are constantly responsible. Thus understood, there is, in fact, no inertia in (this aspect of) consciousness.
Anton Ford - The Question “What to do?”
ABSTRACT. Agents are subjects and objects of thought. Subjects, because, in order to act, they think. Objects, because agents are among the things that thinking is about. This double-relation to thought raises a question of method for practical philosophy. Is agency to be theorized in terms of the thinking of which an agent is the subject, or, rather, in terms of the thinking of which an agent is the object? Analytic philosophers have tended to do the latter. Elsewhere I have called this the objectification of agency. Here I begin to explore a positive alternative. The alternative begins with the question “What to do?” and accounts for the kinds of thinking one does in the face of that question. The question is settled, or so I argue, not by one’s merely forming an intention, but rather by one’s doing something. I argue, further, that it is in virtue of one’s confrontation with the question “What to do?” that one is ready to answer the reason-requesting sense of the question “Why?” that applies to intention and intentional action. Along the way, I consider certain other questions that have featured in accounts of agency—e.g., the question whether to perform one or the other of two competing actions (i.e. “Whether to do A, or, instead, B?”), the question whether or not to perform some one particular kind of action (i.e. “Whether to do A?”), and the question how to get something in particular done (i.e. “How to do A?”)—and I argue that these questions are subsidiary to the original question of agency, the question “What to do?”