The Acts of Our Being: A Reflection on Agency and Responsibility

The Acts of Our Being: A Reflection on Agency and Responsibility

The Acts of Our Being: A Reflection on Agency and Responsibility

The Acts of Our Being: A Reflection on Agency and Responsibility

Excerpt

The issue this book deals with is far too important to be left to professional academic philosophers. By saying that, I intend no discourtesy to them, for part of me belongs to their company. If the issue were one for which they could indeed obtain "results," as certain professions can obtain results in their fields and impart them to the rest of us, we should all have to abide by their pronouncements, no matter how unpalatable we might find them. But the issue is whether we are authentically what most of the time we take ourselves to be--responsible rational agents, and that issue not only is the concern of all thinking persons but also falls within their competence in the sense, by no means obvious or easy to express, that this book is designed to establish. If that should be so, and at this point I ask the reader only to entertain that possibility, anyone who should venture to settle it by dismissing as a mere appearance, or as a prescientific and archaic delusion, the very perspective within which the issue arises would have missed the point of it. By no means all professionals take this line. Some, however, do; and if we suppose them to speak with authority, we may fail to give due weight to the nonprofessional authority each thinking person has in the matter.

The common thinking view, although much disturbed of late by what are perceived as the implications of science, is still that we are indeed responsible rational agents. But all who have gone into the matter, encountered all the familiar difficulties, and, like Milton's reasoning angels (fallen angels, as it happens), "found no end, in wand'ring mazes lost," must occasionally be tempted to think otherwise. If, after having been through something of that kind, I still rejoice to concur with the common thinker, I am nevertheless well aware that one must go very deep to show that the common thinker has been on the right track after all. I have gone as deep as I can; and because professional philosophers have shaped the issue for today in a running dialogue with science and with scientists speaking as philosophers, I

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