Agency: Who is Morally Responsible? - Monima Chadha (Monash University)

Speaker: Monima Chadha

Abstract: In the Abhidharmakośa-Bhāṣya, Vasubandhu defends a no-agent view. Actions, he argues, can be explained in terms of causal relations between mental and physical states. In classical Indian debates, the main objection against Vasubandhu’s view is that such an account leaves us without a bearer for moral responsibility. If there are no agents, it seems that no one could be held (morally) responsible for ‘their’ (morally evaluable) actions. Vasubandhu’s story, however, is not very different from the standard theory of action: “Her desiring ... and her believing ... caused and rationalized a bodily movement.” The standard theory too leaves agents out. Defenders of the standard theory reconstruct agents from among the mental states. Some or other mental state or set of mental states is suitable to play the functional role of the agent, or so they argue. If the standard theory is correct, can reconstructed agents be bearers of moral responsibility? I argue that whatever it is that plays the causal role of agent in the standard theory, it is not identical to ‘that’ which is held morally responsible.

Date & time

Thu 19 May 2022, 2:00pm to 3:30pm


Auditorium, Level 1, RSSS building, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601


Monima Chadha (Monash University)


Sarita Rosenstock


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