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Unconscious agency

ib4walrus's picture

 The title to this posting may seem a little contradictory at first to me at least.  When I think of agency, I think of something that I have at least some control over.  From this definition, the word control would imply that the outcome of my action has some intentionality behind it and because of this, doesn't it mean that we must be aware of both our action and the intended effect it will have?  This is where I began become confused during last Thursday's discussion group.  We eventually reached a point where it seemed to be agreed upon that there might be times where we would unconsciously affect someone else.  If I remember correctly, it was said that we might say something or do an action which causes affects someone else who sees or hears us.  The affect on someone else however is unbeknownst to us and if we were able to effectively change their perspective on something or cause them to do something then we have effectively made use of our unconscious agency.

I however disagree with this.  Even if we were not aware that we had affected someone else through our words/actions that would not mean that it was done unconsciously.  Whatever we say or do is almost always done for a purpose and is meant to incite some type of emotion from others.  The effect we want others to have is intentional and even if we unaware if we affected others that would not classify the agency as unconscious because ultimately it still incited some form of reaction from them.


skindeep's picture


but cant something that you are unconscious of affect someone else consciously? for example, there are times when ive started walking/driving somewhere and i get there without realizing how. at this time my walking/driving process was unconscious in the sense that i was unaware of what i was doing. but someone driving next to me might be affected by the song that was playing in my car, or someone who sees me on the street might think that i remind them of someone they know and that's an effect ive had on them too - but all the while i was in my blissfully unaware, unconscious state.

or what if we used a real example - i spend a lot of time in a half awake half asleep phase, in which you could have an entire conversation with me and i will not remember a word ive said because i am not awake and hence not conscious. im acting one hundred percent unconsciously, and in that state, the words i am saying are in no way controlled by me - and yet, they have a very direct effect on the people i am speaking to (who most of the time have come to wake me up). none of what i say is said with any purpose, or to get any emotional rise out of the people i am talking to.

isnt this agency, or lack thereof, unconscious agency? or, maybe we could rephrase it and say that it is unconscious behavior that appears to have agency because of the manner in which it effects those involved?


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