📰 Patterns of Refactored Agency
Full Title: Patterns of Refactored Agency
Agency is a quality that seems to contradict physicalism – because in physics nothing is ever initiated, nothing acts. “In physics there are only happenings, no doings.” Yet we can’t understand the world without it – if agency is a fiction, it’s a necessary fiction.
Agency is a conceptual framework, and one more suited to real life than pure science.
The quality of agency is deeply rooted in grammar. A well-constructed sentence has an agent (generally but not always the subject), a verb, and a patient (object).
The model of the mind that emerges from these thinkers is that we are at our base bundles of autonomous and somewhat anarchic behaviors, tied together by higher-level functions that work on a kind of Narrative basis – we hold ourselves together by telling stories about our actions, before and after the fact.
We are so conditioned to see ourselves as a unitary agent that the various malfunctions of our agency can be very troubling.
To refactor agency is to break up stale ideas about who causes things to happen and why. That book wants you to read it. The food in the fridge wants to be eaten, the mess in the sink wants you to clean it up. Your computer wants you to use it, to invest yourself further into the particular corner of the technosphere (Apple, Microsoft, web, whatever) that it embodies. Your car wants you to drive it, a million events in the city call to you to participate in them. The ocean tears at the cliffs, the cliffs hold back the ocean. Shops want your money, your money wants you to spend it. Blogs like this one cry out for your attention. If we learn to see the agency in other things we may get a more realistic and thus more useful portrait of our own semi-fictional agency.