Institut Jean Nicod

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"The Phenomenology of Agency"

May, 4


Institut Jean Nicod, Ecole normale supérieure, 29, rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris. Pavillon Jardin, Salle de réunion, RDC.


Organization : Uriah Kriegel (CNRS, IJN)



14:00-15:30 Elisabeth Pacherie (CNRS, IJN),
Time to act: The dynamics of agentive experiences

Abstract: Actions unfold in time, and so do experiences of agency. Yet, despite the recent surge of interest in the sense of agency among both philosophers and cognitive scientists, the import of the fact that agentive experiences unfold in time remains to this day largely under-appreciated. I argue that we should think of agentive experiences as continuants, whose contents evolve as actions unfold. I try to characterize these content-shifts, distinguishing two main dimensions of change, changes in scale or fine-grainedness and changes in tense, as well as the main action control and action specification processes that underlie them. I further argue that taking into account this temporal dynamics of agentive experiences can also help us better appreciate in what sense some of the apparently conflicting empirical models of the sense of agency proposed in recent years can be seen as complementary rather than as rival and help us refine integrative models.

15:45-17:15 Myrto Mylopoulos (Institut Jean-Nicod)
A Cognitive Account of Agentive Phenomenology

Abstract: Many hold that just as there is something it is like for one to taste chocolate, smell a rose, or see green, there is something it is like for one to perform an action, i.e., that there is a phenomenology of agency. Taking this on board as a starting point for theorizing, we may characterize agentive experiences as experiences of oneself as acting. In this talk, I defend a cognitive account of agentive experiences on which the vehicles of such experiences are first-personal thoughts to the effect that <I am A-ing>. In the first part of the talk, I identify a number of desiderata that a theory of agentive experiences must satisfy. Next, I defend what I call the independence-priority claim: sometimes agentive experiences arise independently of and prior to sensory feedback from bodily action. I argue that, combined with some additional reasonable assumptions, this gives us good reason to conclude that agentive experiences are either intentions (constitutive view) or systematically-related states occurring prior to action (non-constitutive view). In the third part of the talk, I argue against the constitutive view, a classic proponent of which is Searle (1983), on the grounds that (i) it explains experiences of trying or intending to act, rather than experiences of acting, and (ii) intentions do not have the appropriate “direction of fit” to serve as the vehicles of agentive experience. Finally, I offer my own account of agentive experiences in terms of first-personal thoughts, and I show how such an account avoids these two difficulties, as well as satisfies our desiderata.

17:30-19:00 Joshua Shepherd (Oxford),
The Multimodal Experience of Acting

Abstract: I reflect on two components typically present in the experience of action, and on how they relate to each other. The first component I call the experience of trying. This is an experience as of directing effort towards the satisfaction of an intention. I argue this component is non-perceptual, in a way proprietarily actional, and typically veridical – the agent’s experience as of directing effort typically is the agent’s directing effort. The second component consists of the range of perceptual experiences on has while acting. I focus on two perceptual modalities – vision and proprioception. I raise a question about how the experience of trying relates to these perceptual experiences in action, and I argue for the view that the experience of acting is (at the very least) a temporally extended, co-conscious collection of agentive and perceptual experiences, functionally integrated and structured both by multimodal perceptual processing as well as by what an agent is, at the time, trying to do.