This project – which is part of the SNF-ProDoc ‘Mind and Reality’ – aims at the development of a general empirically informed philosophical theory of agency which covers the realm of bodily as well as mental action. The analysis of how we experience ourselves in our bodily and mental behaviour will play a central role in this project.
Human agency is a long-established subject of interest among philosophers, but it is only recently that analytical philosophers have seriously taken into account the phenomenological dimension of agency. The way in which we experience ourselves as an agent is of a great importance for a theory of human agency. On the one hand it is already not an insignificant question what is the right account of our experience of actions. Do we experience ourselves as free in our actions? And how do we experience ourselves as the source of our actions? On the other hand, on the base of an adequate account of agentive experience, theoretical discussions can be lead on specific philosophical problems and also on interpretations of empirical findings about human agency.
A systematic account of agentive experience will be developped for both bodily and mental agency. The interpretation and the philosophical consequences of empirical data relevant to theoretical accounts of agency will be an important supplement to our phenomenological approach. More general methodological issues concerning the relation between the phenomenological and the empirical approach will be also addressed.
An adequate understanding of agentive experience is of interest for several different philosophical issues. Long-standing philosophical problems can be tackled in new way. The current debate on consciousness has mainly focused on sensorial experiences and was led to make some mistakes. Widening the scope of the cases studied will open new perspectives in the discussion. Furthermore, our scientifically informed approach is also significant for a better understanding of the interrelation between our natural understanding of ourselves, philosophical reflection and scientific theorizing.