From Volitionalism to the Dual Aspect Theory of Action

Philosophia 41 (3):867-886 (2013)

Abstract

Volitionalism is a theory of action motivated by certain shortcomings in the standard causal theory of action. However, volitionalism is vulnerable to the objection that it distorts the phenomenology of embodied agency. Arguments for volitionalism typically proceed by attempting to establish three claims: (1) that whenever an agent acts, she tries or wills to act, (2) that it is possible for volitions to occur even in the absence of bodily movement, and (3) that in cases of successful bodily actions the relation between volition and bodily movement is causal. I defend an argument for the second of these claims from an objection by Thor Grünbaum, but I show that several volitionalist arguments for the third are not compelling. I then argue that the dual aspect theory of action provides a better account of the relationship between an agent’s volition and the bodily movements she makes when she acts, insofar as it has the same advantages over the standard story as volitionalism without being open to the phenomenological objection. I also defend the dual aspect theory from an objection by A.D. Smith. Finally, I show why the dual aspect theory of action is a better alternative to volitionalism than the theory of action recently put forward by Adrian Haddock. In order to avoid the phenomenological objection Haddock suggests a disjunctive account of bodily movements. While disjunctivism should be taken seriously in the philosophy of action, on the dual aspect theory it is the category of volition, rather than bodily movement, that should receive a disjunctive analysis

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Joshua Stuchlik
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota

References found in this work

Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
On Action.Carl Ginet - 1990 - Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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Citations of this work

On Not Getting Out of Bed.Samuel Asarnow - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (6):1639-1666.

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