Dorothy Emmet Lectures

The Dorothy Emmet Lectures commemorate Dorothy Emmet, an eminent mid-20th Century philosopher and head of the Philosophy Department at Manchester for over 20 years. The lectures are aimed at the general public and require no prior knowledge of philosophy.

 The Philosophy Department at the University of Manchester presents the latest in our series of annual public lectures, the Dorothy Emmet Lectures. The 2022 lecture will be presented by Professor Maria Alvarez (King's College London), on "Agency and Responsibility - the Significance of Alternatives”.  This year we will have a hybrid presentation (you can join in person or via Zoom). The lecture will last around 45 minutes, followed by 45 minutes of Q&A. You will be able to ask questions in person or post them to the chair to read them out. The lecture will be followed by a workshop on 30th September.


The Dorothy Emmet Lecture is supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and the University of Manchester.

Abstract: Agency and Responsibility - the Significance of Alternatives

There seems to be a link between responsibility and agency. While we are often responsible for the things we do or fail to do (our actions and omissions), and for their consequences, we are not equally responsible for the things that happen to us (what we undergo passively) – except indirectly, if they somehow result from something we do or omit doing. On this picture, agency underpins responsibility because, and in so far as, agency involves the capacity to control what happens. In this talk, I present an account of the agential capacities that underpin responsibility because they involve control, and explain the significance that having ‘alternatives’ plays in this context.   

Maria Alvarez

Maria Alvarez is a Professor of Philosophy at King's College London. She is also the Head of Philosophy Department and a Co-Editor of Philosophy. Her research interest lies in the philosophy of action, reasons for action, metaphysics and explanation of action, the problem of free will and moral responsibility. Among her many publications, which include a highly influential account of different kinds of reasons and actions Kinds of Reasons: An Essay in the Philosophy of Action, Maria Alvarez also frequently partakes in public engagement, see her article in the Guardian here and her contribution to the BBC Radio4 Programme 'The Philosopher's Arms: Weakness of Will' here.

Registration and Details

DATE: Thursday the 29th of September

TIME: 4 pm - 6 pm (GMT)

LOCATION: Humanities Bridgeford Street (HBS) G6 | Oxford Road | Manchester | M15 6GY



The 2022 lecture was presented by Maria Alverez on 'Agency and Responsibility - the Significance of Alternatives'. You can watch a video below. For previous speakers and more information about Dorothy Emmet see our main Dorothy Emmet Lectures page.