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Document Details :

Title: Making Ourselves Whole
Subtitle: Wholeheartedness, Narrative, and Agency
Author(s): SCHECHTMAN, Marya
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 21    Issue: 2   Date: 2014   
Pages: 175-198
DOI: 10.2143/EP.21.2.3030696

Abstract :
This article uncovers difficulties with a widely-held account of the kind of agential unity required for autonomous action and offers an alternative account that avoids these difficulties. One influential approach to characterizing agency holds that autonomous action occurs only when an agent is wholeheartedly committed to the motivation on which he or she acts. The basic idea behind this approach (defended by Harry Frankfurt and Christine Korsgaard, among others) is that autonomous action is action that flows from motivations that are truly internal to the agent, and that it is an agent’s wholehearted commitment to a motivation that makes it internal in the relevant sense. Reflection on the diachronic aspects of agency reveals some serious challenges for this approach. These challenges are diagnosed as stemming from a fundamental structural tension between two of its key elements; on the one hand the requirement of absolute wholeheartedness about our commitments, and on the other the claim that questions of agency and autonomy must take as their target the principles, plans, and projects that individual actions represent rather than the actions themselves. The article argues that this tension is unavoidable in the approach as usually defended and outlines a different strategy for characterizing agential unity that does not require wholeheartedness.

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