ArgLab • Permanent Seminar

Robert Clowes

Material Agency and Strong Agency

Despite agency being central to some embodied approaches to human cognition (i.e. versions of enactivism), human agency has proved difficult to fully grasp for cognitive science, 4E or otherwise. Work like Bratman´s ideas on strong agency emphasizes the planfulness, reflectivity and self-regulating character of human agency (Bratman, 2000). Bratman´s captures something important but says little about how and why such capacities arise or why only humans are strong agents. Lambros Malafouris´ Material Engagement Theory (Malafouris, 2013) provides a useful perspective for rethinking strong agency through the prism of human cognitive dependence on material culture. In this talk, I will explore how Bratman properties arise through human creation and interaction with material culture. I will then turn this analysis around to look at the Internet which is a new form of material culture upon which we have become deeply reliant. This talk will explore how a material agency approach may help us grasp this technology and some of the problem generated when considering the “material stuff” of the Internet.