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Chapter 7 - Rational Agency and Personhood

from Part III - Reasons of the Right

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2018

Arash Abizadeh
Affiliation:
McGill University, Montréal
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Summary

This chapter shows that Hobbes’s distinction between the two dimensions of normativity is premised on his distinction between rational agents and persons. Rational agents are those who, in virtue their capacity for reasoning, have normative reasons and hence are attribution-responsible for their intentional states and actions. But to be accountable-responsible to others, a rational agent must also be a person. A person—whether natural or artificial—is both a normative status and an artificial construct defined in terms of four roles: representer, representee, audience, and author or owner. To “be” a person is either to represent or to be represented by someone. To be a person, one must not only be duly authorized to be a person—which is a normative property—but also be considered a person—which is an artificial property dependent on rational agents’ intentional states. The point of Hobbes’s category of personhood is to show how the possibility of occupying the second-personal standpoint, in which one becomes accountable to others, depends on being recognized as a person by them. Accountability is intrinsically interpersonal: for Hobbes one cannot owe obligations or be accountable to oneself.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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