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Précis of Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 November 2016

John M. Doris*
Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program, Philosophy Department, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130jdoris@wustl.edu


Does it make sense for people to hold one another responsible for what they do, as happens in countless social interactions every day? One of the most unsettling lessons from recent psychological research is that people are routinely mistaken about the origins of their behavior. Yet philosophical orthodoxy holds that the exercise of morally responsible agency typically requires accurate self-awareness. If the orthodoxy is right, and the psychology is to be believed, people characteristically fail to meet the standards of morally responsible agency, and we are faced with the possibility of skepticism about agency. Unlike many philosophers, I accept the unsettling lesson from psychology. I insist, however, that we are not driven to skepticism. Instead, we should reject the requirement of accurate self-awareness for morally responsible agency. In Talking to Our Selves I develop a dialogic theory, where the exercise of morally responsible agency emerges through a collaborative conversational process by which human beings, although afflicted with a remarkable degree of self-ignorance, are able to realize their values in their lives.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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