Agency: The Art of Human Choice

Langston Hood

Name: Langston Hood
Majors: English, Philosophy
Advisors: Allison Cardon, Elizabeth Schiltz

This Independent Study thesis consists of six chapters. The first chapter, titled “Determinism”, lays out the conception of determinism that will be referred to in the later chapters. Once causal determinism is proved to be incapable of explaining the way that life unravels, free will is analyzed as another possible solution.

Chapter two again simply titled “Free Will” uses the pieces of determinism that are made out to be unsatisfactory to support more free systems such as libertarianism. Over the course of this chapter free will and tangential systems will be shown to be ineffective similar to determinism, but in vastly different manners. For example, free will is negative, because of the implications of radical free will.

The third chapter will cover Compatibilism as it was once theorized to be the ultimate aim of this work. That is no longer the case, but it does exist as a compelling middle ground between liberty by way of free will and restriction by way of determinism.

Chapter four will conceive of a restrictive sense of agency through the play “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett, which will show the main characters Estragon and Vladimir enact their agency to remain together and virtually ignore everything else.

“Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles will help to further explore the notion of agency as it is allowed to exist through the traditional gaze of Ancient Greek culture. Although Oedipus is fated to commit a variety of atrocities, his agency allows his character to persist.

Finally, chapter five allows for the analysis of agency as the most paramount aspect of the three prevailing systems that have already been discussed. Agency can exist independent of a larger container to exist within, which is why it is the most important part of the puzzle and so long as we are able to salvage it we can justify our own agency.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2023 on April 16, 2023.

One response to “Agency: The Art of Human Choice”

  1. Prof. Claire Eager says:

    Congratulations, Langston! Did you find that the form of the literature you studied (i.e. drama vs other sorts of fiction) was significant for your findings? Is there a Shakespeare play that would be of interest for this project?

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