Tag Archives: Agency

Weakness and the Memory of Resolutions

Jaffro, L. (2022). Weakness and the Memory of Resolutions. In C. Bagnoli (ed.), Time in Action. The Temporal Structure of Rational Agency and Practical Thought, New York, Routledge, Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy, 221-242. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429259845

Contemporary moral theory tends to remain silent about the temporal aspect of practical reasoning. It overlooks the portion of our struggle for practical rationality which is due to the challenges of diachronic agency – planning a future conduct, acting on an earlier decision, following a judgment that took place in the past, etc. How can my earlier judgments and commitments exercise the right traction on my later choices and conduct? How can they fail to do so, and how is this kind of lapse a distinctive kind of “practical irrationality”? The chapter focuses on the moral psychology of solemn resolutions – an area, if any, where the diachronic dimension of agency is especially salient. The first part follows a lead from Leibniz’s account of akrasia and compensatory techniques of self-control: both practical irrationality and self-control are concerned with problems of memory. The second part elaborates on a classification of types of memory and applies it to remedies for weakness of will and thus to self-control over time. The main argument aims to answer two questions. The first concerns the nature of weak agents’ normative memory of important resolutions. What kind or degree of memory is required (and accessible) to stick to one’s resolutions? The second question concerns devices of diachronic self-control that may be useful to agents who are aware of their weakness and willing to cope with it. The proposal pays particular attention to intrapsychic means such as “personal rules” as opposed to external constraints.

Why Thomas Reid Matters to the Epistemology of the Social Sciences

L. Jaffro & V. França Freitas (2019). Why Thomas Reid Matters to the Epistemology of the Social Sciences. The Philosophical Quarterly, 70(279), 282-301. https://doi.org/10.1093/pq/pqz031

Little attention has been paid to the fact that Thomas Reid’s epistemology applies to ‘political reasoning’ as well as to various operations of the mind. Reid was interested in identifying the ‘first principles’ of political science as he did with other domains of human knowledge. This raises the question of the extent to which the study of human action falls within the competence of ‘common sense’. Our aim is to reconstruct and assess Reid’s epistemology of the sciences of social action and to determine how it connects with the fundamental tenets of his general epistemology. In the first part, we portray Reid as a methodological individualist and focus on the status of the first principles of political reasoning. The second part examines Reid’s viHistory of philosophyews on the explanatory power of the principles of human action. Finally, we draw a parallel between Reid’s epistemology and the methodology of Weberian sociology.

Forgiveness and Weak Agency

L. Jaffro (2018). Forgiveness and Weak Agency. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 118(1), 107-125. https://doi.org/10.1093/arisoc/aoy003

Forgiveness involves a process, not an isolated act or decision. The initial step lies within the voluntary control of the forgiver. The immediate outcome of the commitment to forgive is the formation of a new context that modifies some of the circumstances for the forgiver as well as for the wrongdoer. Further consequences, notably changes in the forgiver’s desires and feelings, cannot be brought about directly. A sound account of forgiveness should focus on its intertemporal structure and highlight the relation between the initial commitment and the subsequent process.

Online Interactions and the Concept of Trust

L. Jaffro (2018). Interactions en ligne et concept de confiance. In M. Doueihi and J. Domenicucci (eds), La confiance à l’ère numérique. Paris: Berger Levrault & éditions Rue d’Ulm, 33-62.

The chapter discusses the challenges of applying the concept of trust in the context of online interactions, and proceeds as follows: After an introductory section that combines methodological considerations with the presentation of the concept of practical trust, a second section defends the thesis that a form of trust, systemic trust, distinct from trust as a bet, is a major issue in online interactions;  systemic trust is closely linked to epistemic trust. The final section shows how this analysis may shed new light on barriers to online trust and some practical as well as theoretical problems.

Reid on Powers of the Mind and the Person behind the Curtain

L. Jaffro (2014). Reid on Powers of the Mind and the Person behind the Curtain. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 41, Supplement 1, 197-213. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00455091.2014.897480

According to Thomas Reid, powers of will and powers of understanding are distinguishable in thought, but conjoined in practice. This paper examines the claim that there is no inert intelligence, the operations of the understanding involving some degree of activity. The question is: whose activity? For it is clear that a great deal of our mental activity is not in our power. We need to distinguish between a weak and a strong sense of ‘power’, and consider our dependence ‘upon God and the laws of nature’ in our mental exertions.