The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series

The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series
7 February 2020, 4.00pm - 6.00pm
Bloomsbury Room, G35, Ground Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Autonomy, Authority and Action: Changing Selves and Societies in a Changing World

Maeve Cooke (Dublin)



My paper addresses the question of meaningful and effective human agency in societies that need to be changed for the better. I construe such agency processually and dynamically, as constituted in never-ending interaction with other humans and with its material and natural environments. I describe it as a form of autonomous agency, which I conceive of as ethically self-determining agency. I attribute to this three indispensable features: reflective evaluation oriented by ideas of the good, rational accountability and independence. Ethically determining agency develops in agonistic encounters with multiple other human agents who embrace diverging ideas of the good but are similarly ethically engaged. It is oriented and guided by the non-authoritarian yet authoritative authority exercised within various social institutions. Societal transformation requires goal-directed action, at times action in the form of protest and resistance. Using the example of civil disobedience, I show how it often calls for changes in consciousness, and corresponding behaviour and life-trajectories, and may require work on the self in the sense of spiritual and bodily practices

The Institute of Philosophy hosts a regular workshop series entitled ‘The Practical, the Political, and the Ethical’. The series was created in 2015 by Véronique Munoz-Dardé (UCL) and Hallvard Lillehammer (Birkbeck) in order to discuss work in progress from visiting speakers. This year the series is convened by Amanda Greene (UCL) and Jonathan Gingerich (KCL).  Talks are normally 50 minutes (no pre-circulation of the paper), followed by discussion. All are welcome. 


Institute of Philsophy
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