The Bounds of Agency: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics

The Bounds of Agency: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics

by Carol Rovane


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The subject of personal identity is one of the most central and most contested and exciting in philosophy. Ever since Locke, psychological and bodily criteria have vied with one another in conflicting accounts of personal identity. Carol Rovane argues that, as things stand, the debate is unresolvable since both sides hold coherent positions that our common sense, she maintains, is conflicted; so any resolution to the debate is bound to be revisionary. She boldly offers such a revisionary theory of personal identity by first inquiring into the nature of persons.
Rovane begins with a premise about the distinctive ethical nature of persons to which all substantive ethical doctrines, ranging from Kantian to egoist, can subscribe. From this starting point, she derives two startling metaphysical possibilities: there could be group persons composed of many human beings and muliple persons within a single human being. Her conclusions supports Locke's distinction between persons and human beings, but on altogether new grounds. These grounds lie in her radically normative analysis of the condition of personal identity, as the condition in which a certain normative commitment arises, namely, the commitment to achieve overall rational unity within a rational point of view. It is by virtue of this normative commitment that individual agents can engage one another specifically as persons, and possess the distinctive ethical status of persons.
Carol Rovan is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Yale University.

Originally published in 1997.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691655048
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/26/2019
Series: Princeton Legacy Library , #5558
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Carol Rovane is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Yale University.

Table of Contents

Pt. ILessons from Locke
Introduction to Part I3
Ch. 1Preview of the Normative Analysis of Personal Identity13
1Locke's Analysis13
2Rational Points of View19
3The Explanatory Goal of the Normative Analysis26
4Meeting the Explanatory Goal29
5A Final Comparison with Locke32
Ch. 2On the Need for Revision35
1What the Lockean Thought Experiments Really Show40
2The Conflict Is Not Merely Apparent45
3Neither Side of the Conflict Is Incoherent49
4Seeking Positive Reasons to Embrace One Side of the Conflict59
Ch. 3A Revisionary Proposal65
1What Are Agency-Regarding Relations?74
2The Ethical Criterion Meets All Three Constraints99
Pt. IIPersonal Identity: The Body Practic
Introduction to Part II127
Ch. 4A Sufficient Condition for Personal Identity136
1The Case for Group Persons137
2Intra- and Interpersonal Relations142
3The Normative Analysis of Personal Identity: A First Full Statement160
Ch. 5The Sufficient Condition Is Also Necessary167
1A Rational Reconstruction of Multiple Personality Disorder169
2Justifying the Commitment to Overall Rational Unity179
3Some Remaining Metaphysical Issues183
Ch. 6The First Person209
1The Distinctive Features of the First Person211
2Self-Oriented Ethical Relations232

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