2016 Michael Bratman

The Rational Dynamics of Planning Agency

Michael E. Bratman, U. G. and Abbie Birch Durfee Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Professor of Philosophy, Stanford University. Michael E. Bratmans's website.

7 – 10 June 2016.

  • The Rational Dynamics of Planning Agency 
  • Synchronic Self Governance, Synchronic Rationality 
  • A Planning Agent's Diachronic Self Governance 
  • The Reflective Stability of our Planning agency 

The Rational Dynamics of Planning Agency

Synchronic Self Governance, Synchronic Rationality

A Planning Agent's Diachronic Self Governance

The Reflective Stability of our Planning agency

Our planning agency contributes in fundamental ways, both instrumental and constitutive, to important features of our lives. This agency involves distinctive forms of practical thinking. Prior partial plans settle practical questions about the future. They thereby provide a background framework that poses problems of means and filters solutions to those problems. This plan-infused background frames our practical thinking in ways that cohere with our resource limits, help organize our lives, both over time and socially, and help support our self-governance. And these forms of practical thinking involve guidance by norms of plan rationality, including synchronic norms of plan consistency and means-end coherence, and a diachronic norm of plan stability. But why are these norms of rationality? It is not uncommon to desire non-co-possible things, or to desire an end without desiring the means. Why are plans different? Indeed, it can seem better sometimes to pursue ends by way of inconsistent intentions; and it is not clear what the problem is in not intending believed means if your belief is false, or if you have no good reason for the end. Nor is it clear why plans should have a special stability: why is this not a kind of bad faith? So it is not clear why norms of plan consistency, coherence, and stability are indeed norms of rationality. In the current literature one can discern a range of potential responses. These include appeal to norms of interpretation, a two-tier pragmatic account that parallels rule consequentialism, a skeptical view that it is a myth that these are norms of rationality, a view that sees these norms as piggy-backing on norms of theoretical rationality, and views that suppose that agency has a substantive constitutive aim that supports these norms. In these lectures I develop a different account. While I highlight pragmatic reasons for being a planning agent, I argue that this needs to be supplemented to explain the force of these norms in application to the particular case. The heart of the matter is the connection between plan rationality and a planning agentÂ’s self-governance, both at a time and over time – where we understand self-governance in a way that fits within a natural, causal order, and where we develop this idea without appeal to a substantive constitutive aim of agency. This connection with self-governance helps justify norms of plan consistency, coherence, and stability. In particular, with respect to diachronic plan rationality this approach leads to a modest plan conservatism that is anchored in an account of a planning agent’s self-governance over time. And though we eschew appeal to a constitutive aim of action, we still see the philosophy of action as playing a basic role in support of important ideas in normative philosophy.

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