Pressing agency beyond the flesh: three programmatic arguments grounding the notion of material agency

Michael D. Kirchhoff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


Externalism in philosophy of technology, design studies, cognitive science, technologystudies, and material culture studies, has taken theoretical center stage. It is increasingly fashionableto assert that agency is not exclusively a quality of human beings, but an intrinsically distributedquality - inescapably of both humans and material things (devices, artifacts, technologies...). It is a case of externalism regarding the notion of agency. But there is a potential tension between at least three strands of thought, each with its own distinct programmatic argument, prominent in this literature. The contribution of this paper does not lie in discussing whether externalism regarding the notion of agency is justifiable; but simply to highlight (what seems to me to be) three rather different central arguments (and claims) that organize and inform the idea of material agency in this recent literature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCopenhagen working papers on design
Subtitle of host publicationthe borderland between philosophy and design research
EditorsHelle Hove, Per Galle
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
PublisherThe Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)8798547860
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes
EventCEPHAD 2010 Conference - Copenhagen
Duration: 26 Jan 201029 Jan 2010


ConferenceCEPHAD 2010 Conference


  • argument by parity
  • functional equivalence
  • coupling as constitution
  • material agency; embodiment
  • externalism
  • the locational claim
  • the constitution claim

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