'Expressive Control: Heidegger on What Makes Actions Properly Agential' and 'Norm and Ideal'

You are cordially invited to attend the lectures by Matt Burch and Irene McMullin.

06/13/2018 | 3:00 PM

DATE: Wednesday, June 13th, 2018
TIME: 15:00-17:15
VENUE: room HG-02A37, Main Building VU, De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam.
15:00 – 15:40  Matt Burch
15:40 – 16:00  Q&A
16:00 – 16:15  Break
16:15 – 16:55  Irene McMullin
16:55 – 17:15  Q&A
Followed by drinks and discussion at Icarus!
All are welcome to attend.
About the Lectures:

Matt Burch - Expressive Control: Heidegger on What Makes Actions Properly Agential

In “Self-Expression and Self-Control”, Marya Schechtman identifies a kind of paradox in the way we think about agency and action, namely, it’s a commonplace to say that people are “not themselves” when their self-control is compromised, and yet it’s just as common to think that people express their “true selves” when they lose control or “let go”. Although Schechtman explores this tension by drawing on different phases of Harry Frankfurt’s work, I will look at it through the lens of two major contemporary approaches to moral responsibility. On the one hand, rationalist views identify our agency with our rational capacities and maintain that properly agential actions for which we’re responsible are those over which we exercise rational control. On the other hand, conative expressivist views identify human agency with a nonrational deep self and maintain that we are responsible for any actions that express that deep self. Neither approach seems to do justice to Schechtman’s paradox: the rationalist cannot explain why we feel more ourselves when we lose control, while the expressivist goes too far in downplaying the importance of agential control. In this presentation, I propose that Heidegger’s phenomenological account of agency offers a kind of middle way between these views. Specifically, I will argue that for Heidegger full-blooded intentional action always self-expression and agential control, or what I call expressive control.
Irene McMullin - Norm and Ideal

This paper considers the role of ideality in practical agency. It examines in particular whether a normative orientation toward the better and the worse requires one to represent those conditions as such in order to try to realize them and if so, the nature of that representation. Does ‘the better’ primarily show up via a concrete role model that points toward an ideal, or in an inchoate sense of aspirational possibilities of becoming? Does the given that is transcended in light of a better possibility show up as flawed or simply as ‘to-be-overcome’? I will consider in particular the relationship between reason and thinking insofar as we can characterize the former in terms of an orientation toward specific or specifiable norms, while the latter involves an orientation in which the determinacy of such norms is itself in question. I will argue that the absence of a determinate measure in thinking does not imply the absence of measure as such, however. Getting clear on what this means will require us to consider Heidegger’s discussion of the Platonic idea of the Good and Arendt’s invocation of Kant's notion of the transcendental ideas. I will reject suggestions that the orientation to the good that informs our everyday coping can be understood as a form of reflective cognizing – despite the invocation of the concept of ‘thinking’ – and argue instead that openness to the unspecifiability of the good shows up in a complex experience of inadequacy, yearning, and delight that is operative in many of our experiences of trying to be. Such experiences do not themselves provide reasons for pursing this or that specific possibility, but rather give direction to our striving more generally.

About the Speakers:

Matt Burch is a lecturer in the School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex. His research focuses on issues at the intersection of phenomenology, the philosophy of agency, and research in the cognitive and social sciences. He also does applied work on decision-making and mental capacity law. He has worked on several projects with the Essex Autonomy Project (EAP) dealing with these issues, including an AHRC-funded project on the compliance of the Mental Capacity Act (2005) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Mental Health and Justice project funded by the Wellcome Trust. This September he will embark on an Early Career Research Fellowship awarded by the Independent Social Research Foundation. His project will look at the relationship between risk and trust in the care profession.
Irene McMullin is a senior lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex. Her research makes use of philosophical resources from phenomenology and existentialism to address problems in ethics and moral psychology. She is particularly interested in the idea of self-becoming and the role that other people play in that existential project. Of late her research has focused on virtue ethics and the nature of human flourishing. She is the author of Time and the Shared World: Heidegger on Social Relations (Northwestern University Press 2013), a forthcoming book with Cambridge University Press entitled Existential Flourishing: A Phenomenology of the Virtues. She has published articles on topics including modesty, love and jealousy, phenomenological methodology, moral recognition and responsibility, and the role of memory in constituting social/political communities.

Poster Phil Col June