Tag Archives: Agency

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, advance article. 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 views 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, 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.