“A solution to the problem of the disappearing agent: agents and the production of action”

Agent Causation (AC), roughly, states that the agent produces her action by means of an irreducible power she has. Moreover, AC claims that the Disappearing Agent problem arises from accounts of action, such as the Causal Theory of Action (CTA), in which, allegedly, the agent does not play a role in the production of her action. In general, explanations of action offered by the CTA can be described as accounts in which the agent’s mental states causally contribute to the production of her action, and most of them probably accept that mental states are correlated to brain activity. Relatedly, it is widely agreed in neuroscience that the brain is plastic—i.e., the connections between neurons and the amount of neurons each individual has changes throughout human life due to experience, genetics, and chemical factors. Considering that different agents will have different neural connections, and that different activity patterns will be observed when different agents perform a task, one may conclude that the brain activity involved in the causal production of each action is characteristic of each agent. The agent’s experiences, genetic make-up, and development contribute to shaping her neural connections; therefore, there is no reason to claim that she does not play a role in the production of her action, since the agent’s mental states that causally contribute to the production of her action are fundamentally hers.