Jason Puskar, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee | Newberry

Jason Puskar, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

5:30 to 7pm

Center for American History and Culture Programs
American Literature Seminar

Pushing Donald Davidson’s Buttons: Agency, the Non-Human, and the Binary Switch

Recent theorists of non-human agency have roundly rejected earlier, more humanistic assumptions, but in this paper, I show how Donald Davidson’s causal theory of action anticipates them by decades. Although overtly humanistic and individualistic, Davidson’s causal theory of action nonetheless betrays an early consciousness of human-machine hybridity. By looking closely at Davidson’s famous example of turning on a light switch, I argue that the binary switch did much more than just exemplify his philosophy of agency: for more than a century now, binary switches have helped their users imagine that agency belongs to humans alone.

Cost and Registration Information 

Newberry Scholarly Seminars are pre-circulated. For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org. Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.