This paper examines the relation between the various forces which underlie human action and verbal reports about our reasons for acting as we did. I maintain that much of the psychological literature on confabulations rests on a dangerous conflation of the reasons for which people act with a variety of distinct motivational factors. In particular, I argue that subjects frequently give correct answers to questions about the considerations they acted upon while remaining largely unaware of why they take themselves to (...) have such reasons to act. Pari passu, experimental psychologists are wrong to maintain that they have shown our everyday reason talk to be systematically confused. This is significant because our everyday reason-ascriptions affect characterizations of action that are morally and legally relevant. I conclude, more positively, that far from rendering empirical research on confabulations invalid, my account helps to reveal its true insights into human nature. (shrink)
The aim of this book is to provide an in-depth account of Hegel’s writings on human action as they relate to contemporary concerns in the hope that it will encourage fruitful dialogue between Hegel scholars and those working in the philosophy of action. During the past two decades, preliminary steps towards such a dialogue were taken, but many paths remain uncharted. The book thus serves as both a summative document of past interaction and a promissory note of things to come. (...) We begin this introduction with some general words regarding the philosophy of action before singling out reasons for exploring Hegel’s thought in relation to it. We next present a brief overview of studies conducted to this day, followed by a thematic appraisal of the contributions appearing in this volume. (shrink)
To mark the 50th anniversary of Donald Davidson's 'Actions, reasons and causes', eight philosophers with distinctive and contrasting views revisit and update the reasons/causes debate. Their essays are preceded by a historical introduction which traces current debates to their roots in the philosophy of history and social science, linking the rise of causalism to a metaphysical backlash against the linguistic turn. Both historically grounded and topical, this volume will be of great interest to both students and scholars in the philosophy (...) of action and related areas of study. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: -- Doing the Things We Do * The Reasons for which We Act * The Objects of Action Explanation * Things That Move Us to Act * Various Explananda, Various Explanantia * Agents and Their Actions * Causation in Action Individuation.
Moral particularism is often conceived as the view that there are no moral principles. However, its most fêted accounts focus almost exclusively on rules regarding actions and their features. Such action-centred particularism is, I argue, compatible with generalism at the level of character traits. The resulting view is a form of particularist virtue ethics. This endorses directives of the form ‘Be X’ but rejects any implication that the relevant X-ness must therefore always count in favour of an action.
This essay is motivated by the thought that the things we do are to be distinguished from our acts of doing them. I defend a particular way of drawing this distinction before proceeding to demonstrate its relevance for normative ethics. Central to my argument is the conviction that certain ongoing debates in ethical theory begin to dissolve once we disambiguate the two concepts of action in question. If this is right, then the study of action should be accorded a far (...) more prominent place within moral philosophy than previously supposed. I end by considering an extension of the above to aesthetic evaluation and,mutatis mutandis, that of our lives in general. (shrink)
A Companion to the Philosophy of Action offers a comprehensive overview of the issues and problems central to the philosophy of action. The first volume to survey the entire field of philosophy of action (the central issues and processes relating to human actions). Brings together specially commissioned chapters from international experts. Discusses a range of ideas and doctrines, including rationality, free will and determinism, virtuous action, criminal responsibility, Attribution Theory, and rational agency in evolutionary perspective. Individual chapters also cover prominent (...) historic figures from Plato to Ricoeur. Can be approached as a complete narrative, but also serves as a work of reference. Offers rich insights into an area of philosophical thought that has attracted thinkers since the time of the ancient Greeks. (shrink)
The anthology contains twenty-two essays and is divided into two parts. The essays are, in the main, critical responses to aspects of what has come to be known in action theory as the ‘Standard View’ – the view that traces back to Donald Davidson's contribution to twentieth-century philosophy of action. The view under criticism treats actions as bodily movements caused in a non-deviant way by belief–desire pairs, construes these belief–desire pairs as the primary reasons for the actions that they cause, (...) and embraces event-causality.The issue of how we should conceive of action is taken up in several essays. For example: in Essay 1, Fred Dretske challenges the view that actions are external events that are the effect of the reasons for which the action is done. In Essay 16, Helen Steward, proposes that, instead of treating the availability of a reason-giving explanation as essential to action, we should construe action as ‘an exercise of the power of bodily control by an animal’. In Essay 21, Jonathan Dancy argues for a deflationary approach to actions, which forgoes treating actions ‘as individuals, with identity conditions’.Other authors – for example, Stephen Everson, Rowland Stout and Maria Alvarez – focus on the issue of what reasons for action are. Are they psychological states, or propositions, or states of affairs? Also under review is how to distinguish different kinds of reason: normative and explanatory reasons, and even explanatory and motivating reasons. (shrink)
_The Philosophy of Action: An Anthology_ is an authoritative collection of key work by top scholars, arranged thematically and accompanied by expert introductions written by the editors. This unique collection brings together a selection of the most influential essays from the 1960s to the present day. An invaluable collection that brings together a selection of the most important classic and contemporary articles in philosophy of action, from the 1960’s to the present day No other broad-ranging and detailed coverage of this (...) kind currently exists in the field Each themed section opens with a synoptic introduction and includes a comprehensive further reading list to guide students Includes sections on action and agency, willing and trying, intention and intentional action, acting for a reason, the explanation of action, and free agency and responsibility Written and organised in a style that allows it to be used as a primary teaching resource in its own right. (shrink)
Wittgenstein teaches us that, contrary to current philosophical and scientific trends, the understanding of others is not to be achieved through some kind of emotional tool providing an access-pass to otherwise hidden ‘mental contents’. This insight goes against the popular grain of empathy as a form of informational ‘mindreading’, founded upon John Locke’s assumption that understanding another is a matter of obtaining and decoding the stored in their mind. We would do best to replace this radically distorted account of what (...) it takes to understand others with a stance that places priority on shared aspects of our lives. Only then can we even begin to try and tackle our moral, cultural, religious, and socio-political differences. (shrink)
In this paper we propose a new interpretation of Hegel's views on action and responsibility, defending it against its most plausible exegetical competitors.1Any exposition of Hegel will face both terminological and substantive challenges, and so we place, from the outset, some interpretative constraints. The paper divides into two parts. In part one, we point out that Hegel makes a number of distinctions which any sensible account of responsibility should indeed make. Our aim here is to show that Hegel at least (...) has the materials for a sensible and nuanced account, whatever the precise details of how they hang together. Part two then turns to a hard question concerning the relation of two different aspects of our deeds to responsibility. We consider five alternate ways of relieving the tension in Hegel's text, before putting forth our own preferred solution. (shrink)
This paper explores the role of empathy and detachment in historical explanation by comparing Collingwood and Hume's philosophies of history to Brecht and Stanislavki's theories of theatre. I argue that Collingwood's notion of re-enactment shares much more with Hume and Brecht than it does with Stanislavski. This enables a just medium between rationalistic and empathetic accounts of historical understanding, as recently put forth by Mark Bevir and Karsten Stueber respectively.
Throughout his work Hegel distinguishes between the notion of an act from the standpoint of the agent and that of all other standpoints. He terms the formerHandlung and the latterTat. This distinction should not be confused with the contemporary one between action andmerebodily movement. For one, bothHandlungandTatare aspects of conduct that results from the will,viz. Tun. Moreover, Hegel's taxonomy is motivated purely by concerns relating to modes of perception. So whereas theorists such as Donald Davidson assert thatallactions are events that (...) are intentional under some description, Hegel reserves the term ‘action’ for those aspects of behaviour that are highlighted by a specific set of agent-related descriptions. This is not an ontological category, since there are no such objects as actions-under-specific-descriptions.Sophocles'sTheban Trilogyreveals the central role that these notions must play in any Hegelian understanding of tragic drama. Indeed the contrasts that matter most to Hegel's general take on both epic and tragic poetry are more closely related to the study of action than the standard theory attributed to Hegel would seem to allow. It is more fruitful, then, to incorporate Hegel's insights into such tragedies to the model of action employed by him than it is to try to make them fit whatever ‘theory’ of tragedy might appear to be hinted at in hisAesthetics. (shrink)
This volume focuses on Hegel's philosophy of action in connection to current concerns. Including key papers by Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre, and John McDowell, as well as eleven especially commissioned contributions by leading scholars in the field, it aims to readdress the dialogue between Hegel and contemporary philosophy of action. Topics include: the nature of action, reasons and causes; explanation and justification of action; social and narrative aspects of agency; the inner and the outer; the relation between intention, planning, and (...) purposeful behaviour; freedom and responsibility; and self-actualisation. This book will appeal alike to Hegel scholars and philosophers of action. -/- List of Contributors: Katerina Deligiorgi, Stephen Houlgate, Dudley Knowles, Arto Laitinen, Alasdair MacIntyre, John Mcdowell, Francesca Menegoni, Dean Moyar, Terry Pinkard, Robert B. Pippin, Michael Quante, Constantine Sandis, Hans-Christoph Schmidt Am Busch, Allen Speight, Charles Taylor, Allen W. Wood. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes between various different conceptions of behaviour and action before exploring an accompanying variety of distinct things that ‘action explanation’ may plausibly amount to viz. different objectives of action explanation. I argue that a large majority of philosophers are guilty of conflating many of these, consequently offering inadequate accounts of the relation between actions and our reasons for performing them. The paper ends with the suggestion that we would do well to opt for a pluralistic understanding of action (...) and its explanations. (shrink)
This paper argues for a novel interpretation of Hume's account of motivation, according to which beliefs can (alone) motivate action though not by standing as reasons which normatively favour it. It si then suggested that a number of contemporary debates about concerning the nature of reasons for action could benefit from such an approach.
I here respond to James Warren and John Shand's replies to my paper ‘In Defence of Four Socratic Doctrines’ by questioning the supremacy of contextualist history of philosophy over the so-called ‘analytic’ approach.
Psychological eudaimonism (PE) is the view that we are constituted by a desire to avoid the harmful. This entails that coming to see a prospective or actual object of pursuit as harmful to us will unseat our positive evaluative belief about (and coinstantiated desire for) that object (§I). There is more than one way that such an 'unseating' of desire may be caused on an intellectualist picture (§II). This paper arbitrates between two readings of Socrates' 'attack on laziness' in the (...) Meno, with the aim of constructing a model of moral education based on PE's implied moral psychology. In particular, we argue against the view that when we come to see – through prudential reasoning – that our blatant evaluative beliefs and desires disserve eudaimonism, we will no longer perceive their intentional objects as choiceworthy. We suggest, instead, that it is by experiencing shame that we cease to see the intentional objects of our evaluative beliefs and desires as worthy of pursuit (§III). This form of 'hydraulic education' bypasses reason-responsiveness altogether. As such, it only allows for practical norms to be derived from the nature of agency indirectly, namely by enabling the use of discursive practical reasoning. (shrink)
In two recent articles and an earlier book Fred Dretske appeals to a distinction between triggering and structuring causes with the aim of establishing that psychological explanations of behavior differ from non-psychological ones. He concludes that intentional human behavior is triggered by electro-chemical events but structured by representational facts. In this paper I argue that while this underrated causalist position is considerably more persuasive than the standard causalist alternative, Dretske’s account fails to provide us with a coherent analysis of intentional (...) action and its explanation. (shrink)
Recent years have seen a high increase in the teaching of Philosophy in schools. Programs such as Pathways Schools in Australia International Society for Philosophers, since 2003), 'Philosophy in Schools' in the UK (Royal Institute of Philosophy, since 1999), and 'Philosophy for Children' in the USA, Australia, and the UK (International Council for Philosophical Inquiry since 1985 & Society for Advancing Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education since 1993) are spreading around the world. Within a decade of its introduction Philosophy (...) (AS/A2) has become one of the most popular standard subjects taught across UK secondary.. (shrink)
This paper aims to explore the space of possible particularistic approaches to Philosophy of Science by examining the differences and similarities between Jonathan Dancy’s moral particularism—as expressed in both his earlier writings (e.g., Moral Reasons , 1993), and, more explicitly defended in his book Ethics without Principles (2004)—and Nancy Cartwright’s particularism in the philosophy of science, as defended in her early collection of essays, How the Laws of Physics Lie (1983), and her later book, The Dappled World: A Study of (...) the Boundaries of Science (1999). I shall argue that Dancy’s particularism is more radical, but also more plausible, than Cartwright’s, concluding that we have good reason to embrace a scientific particularism that is far closer to Dancy’s ethical particularism than any view defended by Nancy Cartwright, or any other philosopher from the ‘Stanford school’ of scientific theory. (shrink)
This essay introduces a tension between the public Wittgenstein’s optimism about knowledge of other minds and the private Wittgenstein’s pessimism about understanding others. There are three related reasons which render the tension unproblematic. First, the barriers he sought to destroy were metaphysical ones, whereas those he struggled to overcome were psychological. Second, Wittgenstein’s official view is chiefly about knowledge while the unofficial one is about understanding. Last, Wittgenstein’s official remarks on understanding themselves fall into two distinct categories that don’t match (...) the focus of his unofficial ones. One is comprised of those remarks in the Investigations that challenge the thought that understanding is an inner mental process. The other consists primarily of those passages in PPF and On Certainty concerned with the difficulty of understanding others without immersing oneself into their form of life. In its unofficial counterpart, Wittgenstein focuses on individuals, rather than collectives. The official and the unofficial sets of remarks are united in assuming a distinction between understanding a person and understanding the meaning of their words. If to understand a language is to understand a form of life, then to understand a person is to understand a whole life. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 372 - 392 In this essay I revisit some anti-causalist arguments relating to reason-giving explanations of action put forth by numerous philosophers writing in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s in what Donald Davidson dismissively described as a ‘neo-Wittgensteinian current of small red books’. While chiefly remembered for subscribing to what has come to be called the ‘logical connection’ argument, the positions defended across these volumes are in fact as diverse as they are (...) subtle, united largely by a an anti-scientistic spirit which may reasonably be described as historicist. I argue that while Davidson’s causalist attack was motivated by an important explanatory insight borrowed from Hempel, it caused serious damage to the philosophy of action by effectively brushing over a number of vital distinctions made in the aforementioned works. In seeking to revive these I propose an approach to the theory of action explanation that rescues the anti-causalist baby from the historicist bathwater. (shrink)