Veranstaltung vom

Vortrag im Philosophischen Kolloquium im SoSe 2023.

This talk will be a meditation on the concepts of human action, voluntariness, and responsibility.  I will address several questions:

First, among the things that human beings can be said to do (that is, among those ‘descriptions of what goes on, with a human being as subject, which are in fact true’: cf. Anscombe, Intention, 2nd ed, p. 37), which of these acts belong to the human specifically as a rational being—in the same way that, for example, a dog’s barking belongs to it as an animal whereas its digestion is an act of a faculty that it shares with inanimate life?

Second, how does this concept of a specifically human act relate to the notion of voluntariness as it is applied to human life—where what is said to be voluntary may include some things done through culpable ignorance, and exclude some things done through duress or for fear of consequences?

Third, how do these two concepts relate to the special kind of responsibility that human beings are taken to have for what we do, and for way that human acts are said to be the subject of moral evaluation in a way that the acts of non-rational animals, and of other living and non-living things, are not?

I will proceed through a close reading of several of Elizabeth Anscombe’s writings on these topics, with attention to how she appropriates the ideas of St Thomas Aquinas.


Zur Person:

John Schwenkler is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois (USA) and a Visiting Researcher at Universität Leipzig, supported by a Fellowship for Experienced Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley (2009) and taught previously at Florida State University (2013-2023) and Mount Saint Mary’s University (2009-2013). From 2021-2022 he was Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, and from 2019-2021 he held an Academic Cross-Training Fellowship from the John F. Templeton Foundation. His research is in philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, and ethics, with a special focus on the thought of G. E. M. Anscombe. His current project is to complete a monograph, with the tentative title Describing Human Action: An Essay in Philosophical Grammar.