Agency, Teleological Control and Robust Causation

Marius Usher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


I propose a compatibilist theory of agency and responsibility, according to which an agent is responsible for an effect, if and only if, she is the earliest source of robust causation over it, via an action she carried out in the service of her long term interests. This theory deploys a notion of teleological control, which is a type of guidance-control of the agent over the effect and it involves action plans and means-end reasoning. The theory makes room for degrees of responsibility, and accounts for the distinction between compulsion and determination. The teleological control view is informed by neuroscience and cognitive theory, and while it is indifferent to the distinction between determinism and indeterminism, it contends that the property of natural laws relevant to agency is the presence of successive stages of attractor and bifurcation dynamics. While the former grounds robust causation over effects of actions, the latter limits the temporal range of robustness, allowing us to characterize responsibility in terms of the earliest sources of robust causation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-324
Number of pages23
JournalPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020


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