The Forum for Philosophical Research at

The School of Politics, IR & Philosophy (SPIRE) and the Research Centre for SPIRE,

University of Keele

Invites you all to the next

Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture

From Responsibility to Agency

By: Dr Constantine Sandis

On: Tuesday 9 March, 2010

From: 6-7.30 pm

At: CBA0.060, Chancellor’s Building

University of Keele

All Wecome! Wine!


What sorts of things are we responsible for, and in what ways? In this paper I distinguish between things we are responsible for /directly/ (e.g. our own actions) and things we are responsible for /indirectly/ (e.g. our character traits and the acts of certain others). I argue that if we are to be directly responsible for our own actions, it makes no sense to conceive of these as either events or processes and, consequently, that there is an unsatisfactory tension between basic assumptions about responsibility in modern normative ethics and the standard view of action in current philosophy of mind and moral psychology.

My paper divides into three sections. In the first, I outline various conceptions of responsibility with the aim of emphasising that they all require us to be able to do certain things /at will/. In the middle section I offer an overview of a series of conflicting theories of action. In the final section I then argue most of these are incompatible with the various conceptions of responsibility outlined in the first section. I conclude that if we are even /minimally/ responsible for anything, actions cannot be events or processes. Rather, as von Wright thought, to act is to /bring about/ a certain occurence at will.

About the Speaker

Dr Constatine Sandis is Senior Lecturer at the Westminster Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes University and faculty member of New York University in London. He specialises in Philosophy of Action, Philosophy of History, Moral Psychology and History of Ideas. Currently he is finishing a monograph on the theory of motivation (with Palgrave Macmillan). He edited a volume on “New Essays on the Explanation of Actions” (Palgrave Macmillan 2009) and co-edited “A Companion to the Philosophy of Action” (Wiley-Blackwell 2010). He has published numerous other articles and studies in his areas of research interest.

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