Atypical Rational Agency

Paul Raymont


A competent agent exercises her capacity for self-directing autonomy by acting in
ways that are explainable by appeal to her reasons. Central features of such
rationalizing explanations are brought to light by way of a comparison with the sort
of understanding that is afforded by merely causal accounts of one’s behaviour. The
resulting observations are then applied to a recent decision by the Supreme Court of
Canada, in which a psychiatric patient was deemed to be capable of making decisions
about his own treatment. I conclude that when we make sense of someone’s treatment
decision by seeing it as an expression of his reasons, we thereby commit ourselves to
the possibility that an atypical, seemingly strange treatment decision may
nonetheless be an expression of genuine, rational autonomy.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; competence; autonomy; understanding; explanation; action theory

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