Read e-book online The Human Agent PDF

By G. N. A. VESSEY (auth.)

ISBN-10: 0333096010

ISBN-13: 9780333096017

ISBN-10: 1349279080

ISBN-13: 9781349279081

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He may, in the given case, choose the moral thing as against the pleasant or inversely, though the second choice may stand out in less clear outline, a veil of sham-moral arguments being drawn over it to make it more palatable; again, he may choose to enjoy a magnificent sight at the cost of climbing up a steep hill, or inversely choose to rest at the cost of renouncing enjoyment of the sight, and so forth. , at the same time, he is likely to miss some advantage or accept some hardship in so choosing; and even should he 'will' to do a thing he finds to be advantageous from every point of view he can think of, in virtue of the categorial schema of choice and action at least a shadowy sense of contradictoriness still attaches to his experience- he might, after all, have decided otherwise, perhaps wilfully invoking a countervailing motive; he could have chosen an alternative course (but why do so?

1 Thus it comes about that the legal formula placet stands for strictly volitive, agential decree, that the pleading lawyer at court introduces a proposal with the hedonistic tailwaving words 'May it please your Lordship', and that some offenders are sentenced to detainment 'during her Majesty's pleasure'. Will is free-will but it is not only free; its element of un-predetermined random 'decree' can be compared to the impure randomness of loaded dice. While Austin Farrer has rightly said that 'free-will' is a pleonastic term since there is no such thing as a non-free will, 2 the freedom of the will is not that of an unweighted entity sauntering about aimlessly in a vacuum; and thus the expression 'free-will' is not quite so starkly tautological as, say, 'a female cow', and had, I think, better be retained by libertarians as a useful and significant • In the discussion following the reading of this paper at the Royal Institute of Philosophy, a speaker (unknown to me) made the most interesting remark that in ordinary language an 'agent' meant somebody acting on behalf of another or of others and that something of this aspect also survived in the philosophic concept of agency.

Any more complete and definitive answer being disingenuous so long as sufficient 'compulsive evidence' for it is lacking. Not so, practical problems. These, while sometimes susceptible of a delayed or again of a compromise solution, are in principle intolerant of any enduring answer couched in terms of probability or the like: I cannot 'probably' choose this drink or that if I am here and now offered a choice of drinks but only take actually one of them (or none); I cannot 'probably' go to a specified lecture next Monday night, once next Monday night has arrived, but only actually go or not go.

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The Human Agent by G. N. A. VESSEY (auth.)


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