By Bas C. Van Fraassen
An introductory, historic survey of philosophical positions on house and time, during the exact concept of relativity and the causal idea of time.
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Additional resources for An Introduction to the Philosophy of Time and Space
Exercising authority over oneself is something one does when one’s rational agency is under threat. It is not what occurs in the paradigm instances of rational agency. When things are going well, our reasons for action do not include the fact that we have ordered ourselves to act this way, nor the fact that we issue this order in our capacity as rational beings. This is what Bernard Williams gets right when he says that giving oneself permission to save one’s wife would generally involve “one thought too many” (Williams 1981: 18).
Their motivating force will not be our motivating force. According to this story, whenever we do things for a reason, we have managed to transform a mere collection of mental states, in relation to whose motivating force we rational beings would otherwise be mere passive bystanders, into a uniﬁed rational agent—the sort of rational being we are when we cause our behavior. How do we manage to do this? According to one compelling and inﬂuential version of the story, rational beings incorporate their various impulses into a uniﬁed whole by ensuring that these impulses obey the laws that are constitutive of their rationality, where these include laws that determine which ends they have reason to pursue.
For us, too, the thought that our reason permits or requires a certain course of action is usually one thought too many. This is, I think, an important objection to the conception of rational agency as the product of an intrapersonal authority relation. I want, however, to focus on a deeper problem with what we can call the “authoritybased” conception. To put it bluntly, on this conception of rational agency, insofar as we are desiring beings, we could not care less about whether the motivating force of these desires can be attributed to an agent.
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