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Embodied Rational Agency

  • Author(s): Luthra, Yannig Ashoka
  • Advisor(s): Burge, Tyler
  • et al.
Abstract

My dissertation aims to make progress in understanding what it is to be an embodied rational agent. I argue that human agency consists not just in our rational capacities for thought and understanding, but also in non-rational capacities, like our physical ability to put one foot in front of the other and walk. In trying to understand the nature of embodied rationality, my dissertation takes steps toward developing the idea that our activity as free, rational beings consists not just in cognition, but also in bodily action.

I suggest that our success as practical reasoners depends constitutively on our physical abilities. Practical reason's primary function is to guide action, even though acting is not a part of one's practical reasoning. Practical reason differs in this respect from theoretical reason, since theoretical reason functions to guide belief, and forming a belief is a part of one's reasoning. In guiding action, practical reason ``reaches past itself'' in a way that theoretical reason does not. Since acting is not a part of one's reasoning, practical reason can only succeed in fulfilling its primary function as part of a larger action system. This larger action system crucially includes the physical abilities that we rely on to execute most of our actions. Thus, our success as practical reasoners depends not just on our capacities for practical thought and understanding, but also on the larger action system that those capacities function as a part of, including our physical abilities.

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