Personal Agency

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 53:211-227 (2003)
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Why does the problem of free will seem so intractable? I surmise that in large measure it does so because the free will debate, at least in its modern form, is conducted in terms of a mistaken approach to causality in general. At the heart of this approach is the assumption that all causation is fundamentally event causation. Of course, it is well-known that some philosophers of action want to invoke in addition an irreducible notion of agent causation, applicable only in the sphere of intelligent agency. But such a view is generally dismissed as incompatible with the naturalism that has now become orthodoxy amongst mainstream analytical philosophers of mind. What I want to argue is that substances, not events, are the primary relata of causal relations and that agent causation should properly be conceived of as a species of substance causation. I shall try to show that by thus reconceiving the nature of causation and of agency, the problem of free will can be made more tractable. I shall also argue for a contention that may seem even less plausible at first sight, namely, that such a view of agency is perfectly compatible with a volitionist theory of action.



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Author's Profile

E. J. Lowe
PhD: Oxford University; Last affiliation: Durham University

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Rationality in Action: A Symposium.Barry Smith - 2001 - Philosophical Explorations 4 (2):66-94.
Action and Purpose.Richard Taylor - 1966 - Philosophy 43 (163):73-74.
Analytical Philosophy of Action. [REVIEW]Lawrence H. Davis - 1976 - Journal of Philosophy 73 (4):99-107.

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