Accessibility statement

Agency and Action - PHI00082M

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Stephen Everson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

We shall investigate the nature of agency and human action.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

The module will introduce students to central topics in the philosophy of action, particularly those do with the individuation of action (what actions are), the explanation of action, and the notion of a reason for action. Philosophy of Action cuts across Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind and Ethics and the module will reflect that. In the seminars we shall be looking in detail at key papers and this will deepen students’ ability to engage in close reading of philosophical arguments. 

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should be able to understand contemporary debates in central areas of the Philosophy of Action and engage critically with a philosophical literature that is both rigorous and subtle.

Module content

Indicative topics are as follows:

  • What are actions?

  • The individuations of actions

  • Primary-reason explanations

  • Internal and external reasons

  • Motivated and unmotivated desires

  • The classical theory of agency

  • Normative and motivating reasons


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The formative critical summary is due for submission in Week 9 of the Autumn Term.

The summative essay is due for submission on Monday Week 2 of the Spring Term.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive feedback on formative work before the end of the term in which the module is taught.

Students will receive feedback on summative work 4 weeks after submission.

Indicative reading

Donald Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events (1980)

Jennifer Hornsby, Actions (1980)

Jonathan Dancy, Practical Reality (2000)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.