Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Philosophy/Neuroscience, and Psychology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



According to standard conceptions of agency, our reasons and intentions guide our actions. That is, goal-directed intentions play a key role in practical deliberation, planning, and execution of action. Furthermore, purposeful, goal-directed behavior warrants attributions of responsibility or “reactive attitudes” like resentment, anger, gratitude and forgiveness. However, recent developments of the dual-process theory of mind cast doubt on the empirical adequacy of this picture. While people take themselves to be responding to relevant reasons, they are often bypassed by irrelevant affective or automatic reactions. In this work I go beyond the dual-process theory of mind to offer a mechanistic account of the role of emotion in agency and practical deliberation. In particular, I show that emotion undermines our reflection by structuring our agential point of view, skewing our reactive attitudes, and preparing us for action at the expense of accurate self-awareness. I conclude by offering a way of developing agential skills without relying on accurate reflection. In particular, I show how increasing self-diversity can foster cognitive flexibility and the ability to form appropriate affective reactions.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

John Doris Casey O'Callaghan

Committee Members

Elizabeth Schechter, Ron Mallon, Allan Hazlett, Laurie Paul,