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Spring 2024 Colloquium: Manuel Vargas

Thursday, February 1, 2024 - 2:30pm to 4:30pm

Philosophy Library | 4th floor, Cohen Hall

Please join us on Thursday, February 1st for our Philosophy Department Colloquium with Professor Manuel Vargas.
The event will start at 2:30 pm in the Philosophy Department Library (4th floor, Cohen Hall), with a reception to follow in the lounge.

Echoes of Agency: Reflections from Mexican Existentialism.

Abstract: Anglophone philosophical approaches to agency and responsibility have tended to be individualistic in two ways, that is, in focusing on individual agents and in prioritizing the psychological states of those agents. Such pictures have tended to say comparatively little about, for example, the enculturation of agents, the significance of institutions for stabilizing the social meanings of actions, and in taking account of how existing patterns of social meanings alter the scope of agency. In contrast, within the work of mid-20th century Mexican existentialists, it was common to place a special emphasis on the cultural specificity of agency, and to emphasize the way in which agency could be both constrained and sustained by the arrangements of institutions and operative social norms. I argue that these latter accounts, which sometimes appeal to the idea of an action’s “echo,” can usefully illuminate some otherwise puzzling phenomena that are ill-captured by many Anglophone approaches to agency and responsibility.