Philosophy of Action

Edited by Constantine Sandis (University of Hertfordshire)
Assistant editor: István Zárdai (Juntendo University, Tokyo, Keio University)
About this topic

The philosophy of action includes topics and issues as diverse as those of action theory, agency, autonomy, criminal liability, joint action, free will, decision theory, practical reason, speech acts, motivation, reasons and reasoning, and intention. So whilst it is a distinct area of enquiry in its own right, many issues in the philosophy of action cannot be addressed independently of philosophy of mind, ethics, metaphysics, legal and political philosophy, philosophy of history, philosophy of language philosophy of science, behavioural science, and cognitive ethology. Conversely, progress in these and other fields often requires a philosophical investigation of the nature of action, intention, volition, free agency, deliberation, and so on.

Key works The philosophical study of action and its motives can be traced back to ancient Greek and Indian philosophy. It is of central importance, for example, to Aristotle & Ostwald 1911, and accounts of action have also played a key role in the work of most of the great philosophers of human nature, including Aquinas, Suarez, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Collingwood, and Wittgenstein. In contemporary philosophy key works have focused on topics as diverse as those of ontology and individuation (Hornsby 1980), mental causation (Heil & Mele 1991), intention (Anscombe 1957), weaknes of will (Charlton 1988), practical reasoning (Audi 1989), reasons and explanation (Dretske 1988), historical action (Dray 1995), free will (Kane 2001), addiction&control (Mele 1996), criminal liability (Shute et al 1993 ), joint and collective actions (Searle 1990), and decision theory (Kaplan 1983). Through a series of highly influential papers, Donald Davidson (Davidson 2001) adressed almost all of the above aspects of philosophy of action within a causalist framework which continues to challenge and inspire.
Introductions Danto 1973 Davis 1979 Moya 1990 O'Connor & Sandis 2010 Stout 2005
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