Foundations of Science (forthcoming)

Rémi Clot-Goudard
Université Grenoble Alpes
Many philosophers nowadays take for granted a causalist view of action explanation, according to which intentional action is a movement caused by mental antecedents. For them, “the possibility of human agency evidently requires that our mental states – our beliefs, desires, and intentions – have causal effects in the physical world: in voluntary actions our beliefs and desires, or intentions and decisions, must somehow cause our limbs to move in appropriate ways” (Jaegwon Kim, Mind in a Physical World, Cambridge (MA), MIT Press, 2000 (1998), p. 31). The main question then is not to know whether there is mental causation at all, but how we should account for it. How can the mind move our body? In her 1983 paper, “The Causation of Action”, Elizabeth Anscombe shows how confused this way of putting things is. For her, if intentions or beliefs can indeed be taken to be causes of action, it is not in any metaphysically problematic sense. Seeing this requires us to distinguish clearly two theses: (1) “to be done in execution of a certain intention” is not a causal relation between intention and action; (2) an intention may be said to cause something: but this pertains to a specific kind of causal history, different from that which is uncovered by physical enquiry. First we will show how the metaphysical problem of mental causation arises from a given conception of action. Then we will turn to Anscombe’s arguments in favour of the two aforementioned theses.
Keywords Mental Causation  Anscombe  Intention
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References found in this work BETA

Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
Causality and Determination.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1993 - In E. Sosa M. Tooley (ed.), Causation. Oxford Up. pp. 88-104.
Mind in a Physical World.Jaegwon Kim - 2001 - Noûs 35 (2):304-316.
The Mental Causation Debate.Tim Crane - 1995 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 69 (Supplementary):211-36.
Mind in a Physical World.Jaegwon Kim - 2000 - Philosophy 75 (291):131-135.

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