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Matthew Heeney

Title | Organization: 
Graduate Student | Ph.D. program in Philosophy
Student Year: 
7th Year Ph.D. Student (Dissertation Phase)
 
My dissertation is entitled Agency and the Attitudes: Responsibility Through Reasoning. In the dissertation, I argue that responsibility for the attitudes of belief and intention is sourced in an agent’s inferring to a conclusion. I argue in turn that inferring to a conclusion is a fully intentional mental action. On this front, the dissertation engages recent epistemological studies of the nature of inferring. One broad aim of my dissertation is to approach these epistemological issues about the nature of inferring and broader normative issues about responsibility for our own minds from a distinctively action-theoretic point of view. My hope is that this orientation allows us also to reconceptualize longstanding theoretical issues regarding intentional bodily action as well. 
 
One such issue is the relation between stable long-term intentions to act and intention-executing bodily actions. What is the nature of this relation? In two article projects, I address this question by drawing on an action-theoretic approach to inferring. I argue that we can fruitfully understand the relationship between intention and bodily action on the model of the relation between a thinker’s premises and the conclusion she infers from those premises. This will allow for a better account of (a) the authority that long-term intentions possess over later thought and action, and (b) the relationship between intention and action when an agent suffers from a clear-eyed rational failure to execute her intention in action. These two projects stem from my dissertation, as well as from a study of Anscombe's Intention.
 
Lastly, I have a longstanding interest in the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre. I have recently started work on a new project that attempts to extract from Sartre’s Being and Nothingness the materials for a plausible account of what is involved in forgiving a wrongdoer. The goal of this inquiry is to lay bare the peculiar species of self-directed agency that seems to me crucial in any successful case of forgiving. This project is in its early stages; I hope to be able to say more in the near future. 
Areas of Specialization: 

Philosophy of action & mind (esp. mental agency), practical rationality and normativity; existentialism (Sartre)