Investigating the other side of agency: A cross-disciplinary approach to intentional omissions
Published inJYU dissertations
© The Author & University of Jyväskylä
This study develops conceptual means in philosophy of agency to better and more systematically address intentional omissions of agents, including those that are about resisting the action not done. I argue that even though philosophy of agency has largely concentrated on the actions of agents, when applying philosophy of action to the social sciences, a full-blown theoretical account of what agents do not do and a non-normative conceptual language of the phenomena in question is needed. Chapter 2 aims to find out what kind of things intentional omissions are. I argue that although intentional omissions are part of our intentional behavior, they are not actions in the sense that the standard account of action assumes. Instead, because intentional omissions are homogenous, continuous, unbounded, indefinite and directly uncountable, they should be thought of as activities instead of performances. This view links the ontology of intentional omissions to the ontology of processes instead of to that of events, and I argue that this kind of ontology accounts for the fluid nature of the agency of alive agents not only instigating but controlling and sustaining their intentional omissions as well. Chapter 3 aims to find out on what conditions is an omission intentional. The aim is to find a naturalized explanation of them that would make it possible to combine psychological perspectives with philosophical ones so that intentional omissions could be treated as something that exist in the world, not just in our philosophical intuitions. I argue that intentional omissions necessarily require the agent’s procedural metacognition concerning the action not done. Based on this metacognition view, a non-normative conceptual typology of not doings is presented. Chapter 4 aims to find out on what conditions is an intentional omissions resistance toward something. The necessary elements of resistance are clarified and I argue that resistant intentional omissions in which the agent does not perform an action out of resistance toward something are a normal part of our everyday agency. The implications of the findings are considered for theories of action, especially when it comes to the belief-desire model that may not be able to fully account for resistant intentional omissions. Chapter 5 aims to find out what conceptual means do we have for talking about not doing something as a form of resistance. I argue that in the social sciences, bioethics and military ethics to not do something out of resistance is taken as something that exists, and as something that has causes and effects. However, concepts such as civil disobedience, conscientious refusing, exit and everyday resistance do not account for the ordinariness of this kind of not doings. Thus, I argue that such concepts are not able to fully cover resistant inaction and philosophy of intentional omissions can be of use not just in the social sciences. Finally, Chapter 6 considers the implications of these findings. The main implication of this study is that our view of social and ethical agency would need to better include intentional not doings, not just the sum of the intentional actions of agents. Another major implication is that agents themselves should be heard when analyzing their intentional omissions in society, because intentional omissions are phenomena that can easily be mixed with the passivities of agents from the perspective of an outside observer. Keywords: intentional omission, activity, process, event, intentionality, agency, resistance, metacognition ...
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