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CEFISES Seminar: Hugh Desmond, “The Deliberation Model of Organismic Agency”

April 29@14:00-16:00 CEST

Series: Life and Cognition

Abstract: Most accounts of organismic agency run into the problem of dispensability: why describe a behavior of an organism as agential, when a mechanistic explanation would do just fine? In this talk I problematize how organismic agency is often analyzed in terms of goal-directedness, as if it were a naturalization of intentionality. Such “intentionality models”, I argue, do not allow for avoiding the dispensability problem. As an alternative, I propose that it is more promising to think of organismic agency as the naturalization of deliberation. Deliberative action is not merely goal-directed, but involves weighing multiple goals and a choice for some combination of these. In causal terms, this appearance of choice can arise from non-linear mechanisms tipping towards one attractor state or another. When the factors that make the difference between the organism tipping towards one goal or another are epistemically opaque for the observers, explaining a behavior as agential can be the only reasonable option. By applying the deliberation model to the example of chemotaxis, I contrast it with some of the main intentionality models of agency, which usually involve the maximization of some quantity (fitness, free energy, self-maintenance).


April 29
14:00-16:00 CEST
Event Category:


Andrea Gambarotto


Salle Ladrière
Place du Cardinal Mercier 14 (bâtiment Socrate, a.124)
Louvain-la-Neuve, 1348 Belgium
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