The Assumption of Agency Theory: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Assumption of Agency Theory

1st Edition

By Kate Forbes-Pitt


170 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781138797970
pub: 2014-05-19
Hardback: 9780415782111
pub: 2011-04-01
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203803363
pub: 2011-04-05
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The Assumption of Agency Theory revisits the Turing Test and examines what Turing’s assessor knew. It asks important questions about how machines vis à vis humans have been characterized since Turing, and seeks to reverse the trend of looking closely at the machine by asking what humans know in interaction and how they know it.

Building upon existing theories of philosophy of mind, this book shows not how humans operate theoretically, but how they use every day human skill to overcome knowledge barriers and understand each other through knowing themselves. Only once human interaction has been theorized in this way are machines able to be placed within it; when it is easier to understand what humans believe them to be. This book characterizes a non-human agent that shows itself in interaction but is distinct from human agency: an agent acting with us in our ongoing reproduction and transformation of structure. Turing predicted that at the end of the twentieth century, we would refer to thinking machines ‘without fear of contradiction’. The Assumption of Agency Theory shows how and why, even if we don’t say it, we deal with machines every day as if they are thinking, acting agents.


'…succeeds in producing a firm argument that leads towards a step that is long overdue: to incorporate the presence of intelligent, ‘behaving’ machines directly into theories of the social (and human) sciences.'

-Kathrine Elizabeth Anker in the Journal of Critical Realism, vol 11 no 4

Table of Contents

Introduction Chapter 1: Philosophical Assumptions Section 1: Self-knowledge and the Assumption of Agency Chapter 2: Problem of Other Minds: the importance of first-order concepts Chapter 3: What it Means to be Minded: intentionality Chapter 4: Reasons and Causes Chapter 5: Preliminary Statements About Agency Section 2: Interaction, Maintenance of Agency and the Unexplained Act Chapter 6: The Ego Agent and Structure Chapter 7: Maintenance of Agency: first order concepts through interaction Chapter 8: Satisfying the Conditions of Agency: using the action-mind chain Chapter 9: The Unexplained Act: arriving at the evinced agent Section 3: Technology as Agent Chapter 10: Technology as Evinced Agent: disappearing the machine Chapter 11: Disappearing the Machine into the Ego Agent: 3D interaction and its implications for agency and reality Conclusion

About the Author

Kate Forbes-Pitt left a career in IT to read Sociology at the London School of Economics before earning her PhD in Philosophy of Social Science at Lancaster University. Kate currently holds a post-doctoral position at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, pursuing a philosophy of virtual worlds.

About the Series

Ontological Explorations (Routledge Critical Realism)

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General