The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series

The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series
27 November 2020, 4.00pm - 6.00pm
Online seminar.

Failed Representative Agency: The Case of Privatized Government

Chiara Cordelli (University of Chicago)


What are the conditions that an agent must meet to speak or act in the name of another? This is the question of representative agency. I argue that for representative agency to occur it is not sufficient that the representative agent acts within the boundaries of her validly authorized mandate, as some argue; nor it is sufficient that the representative agent intentionally aims to perform the actions the principal intends for her to perform in his name, as others argue. The representative agent must also intend to do or say what the principal validly authorized her to do or say for reasons that are not positively excluded in virtue of acting under the principal’s authorization. I call this “the included reasons condition.” Applying this account to the case of privatized government, I then argue that private actors (e.g. for-profit and nonprofit organizations), given certain features that differentiate them from public actors, generally fail to act in the name of government. This is so even when they are validly authorized to act as agents of government and even when they actually do what government asks them to do.

View a recording of the seminar

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 Kate Vredenburgh (LSE) and Jonathan Gingerich (KCL).  Talks are normally 50 mintes (no pre-circulation of the paper), followed by discussion. All are welcome. 


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