Kevin Mitchell’s Agency

Agency is the subject of this talk by Kevin Mitchell (Trinity, Dublin) outlining the arguments in his upcoming book “Free Agents – How Evolution Gave Us Free Will” (Oct 4th) – already on order on my book list. Been following and plugging his thinking into mine for a couple of years now, since his previous book “Innate.

Event at Tufts, and co-organised by Michael Levin, another much referenced in recent years.


Lots of good stuff to note:

“Active” processes and “Inference” in multivariate “systems” context. And “affordances” and “interfaces”. All the words if not the specific “Act-Inf” topic.

“Illusionism” in the “not in this illusory sense” sense. Not suggesting it (free-will, say) is not real, just that some of our perceptions of it are illusory. Exactly like Dennett in fact, Kevin 🙂

“Care” and “Trust”. The former being the topic of this event.

Individual choice as part of wider socio-political cybernetics.

Buddhist parallels.

Processes, relations and relational-properties rather than substance-object metaphysics / ontology. (Mike Levin is a Whiteheadian.)

Flow of time in fuzzy “quantum” in-/under-determinate future and fixed “classical” past – with the present as the just-in-time reality of now in “interaction” – Bergsson and Whitehead  >>> Madness? (In the realisation of none-substance-reality – a pathology – eg in smug / militant atheism. Also – genetics of psychiatric illness related too.)

Reductive, mechanistic, substantive science has held sway 1920’s to 202o’s, but process (holistic systems) view including the “subjectivity” is coming back. Systems level tools and computations now available to scientists.

Excellent stuff.


Post Note Jan 2024 – A summary of Free Agents in his own words at the Royal Society of Biology. My copy still in the “library of unread books”.


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