Reflective Agency in Expert Action

How does thinking affect doing? In a paper entitled “The Way of the Wanton” (2008), David Velleman suggests that we achieve excellence only after we have moved beyond reflective agency. What he means by this is that although reflective agency—that is, thinking about and deliberating over our occurrent actions—is a stepping-stone to developing expertise, we perform at our best when we attain what he refers to as “self-forgetful spontaneity,” or “flow.” Echoing a view that one finds in a number of diverse intellectual traditions, he tells us that in highly-skilled actions, “the capacity to monitor…performance, to consider how it falls short of an ideal, and to correct it accordingly…is no longer exercised.” Rather, after the requisite training, according to Velleman, “evaluative judgment is suspended” and experts act “without deliberate intention or effort.” But is this true?

A research proposal: Reflective Agency

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