Agentially controlled action: causal, not counterfactual

Philosophical Studies 180 (10-11):3121-3139 (2023)
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Abstract

Mere capacity views hold that agents who can intervene in an unfolding movement are performing an agentially controlled action, regardless of whether they do intervene. I introduce a simple argument to show that the noncausal explanation offered by mere capacity views fails to explain both control and action. In cases where bodily subsystems, rather than the agent, generate control over a movement, agents can often intervene to override non-agential control. Yet, contrary to what capacity views suggest, in these cases, this capacity to intervene does not amount to agential control or action. I illustrate this with a case study of how passive breathing, a mere behavior, is misclassified by mere capacity views. I end by revisiting the central alternative to mere capacity views: causal control views. Advances in our understanding of how agents exert control over unfolding movements indicate that the nature of control is characterized by ubiquitous, small-scale causal interventions.

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References found in this work

A Metaphysics for Freedom.Helen Steward - 2012 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 57:321-332.
Action, Knowledge, and Will.John Hyman - 2015 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The problem of action.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1997 - In Alfred R. Mele (ed.), The philosophy of action. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 157-62.

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