This book presents an events-based view of human action somewhat different from that of what is known as "standard story". A thesis about trying-to-do-something is distinguished from various volitionist theses. It is argued then that given a correct conception of action's antecedents, actions will be identified not with bodily movements but with causes of such movements.
We defend the view of some feminist writers that the notion of silencing has to be taken seriously in discussions of free speech. We assume that what ought to be meant by ‘speech’, in the context ‘free speech’, is whatever it is that a correct justification of the right to free speech justifies one in protecting. And we argue that what one ought to mean includes illocution, in the sense of J.L. Austin.
A disjunctivist conception of acting for reasons is introduced by way of showing that a view of acting for reasons must give a place to knowledge. Two principal claims are made. 1. This conception has a rôle analogous to that of the disjunctive conception that John McDowell recommends in thinking about perception; and when the two disjunctivist conceptions are treated as counterparts, they can be shown to have work to do in combination. 2. This conception of acting for reasons safeguards (...) the connection between considerations that move us to act in particular ways and considerations that favour our acting in particular ways. (shrink)
Intellectualists tell us that a person who knows how to do something therein knows a proposition. Along with others, they may say that a person who intends to do something intends a proposition. I argue against them. I do so by way of considering ‘know how ——’ and ‘intend ——’ together. When the two are considered together, a realistic conception of human agency can inform the understanding of some infinitives: the argument need not turn on what semanticists have had to (...) say about ‘the subjects of infinitival clauses’. (shrink)
Hornsby is a defender of a position in the philosophy of mind she calls “naïve naturalism”. She argues that current discussions of the mind-body problem have been informed by an overly scientistic view of nature and a futile attempt by scientific naturalists to see mental processes as part of the physical universe. In her view, if naïve naturalism were adopted, the mind-body problem would disappear. I argue that her brand of anti-physicalist naturalism runs into difficulties with the problem of mental (...) causation and the completeness of physics. (shrink)
Among philosophical questions about human agency, one can distinguish in a rough and ready way between those that arise in philosophy of mind and those that arise in ethics. In philosophy of mind, one central aim has been to account for the place of agents in a world whose operations are supposedly ‘physical’. In ethics, one central aim has been to account for the connexion between ethical species of normativity and the distinctive deliberative and practical capacities of human beings. Ethics (...) then is involved with questions of moral psychology whose answers admit a kind of richness in the life of human beings from which the philosophy of mind may ordinarily prescind. Philosophy of mind, insofar as it treats the phenomenon of agency as one facet of the phenomenon of mentality, has been more concerned with how there can be ‘mental causation’ than with any details of a story of human motivation or of the place of evaluative commitments within such a story. (shrink)
Contemporary literature in philosophy of action seems to be divided overthe place of action in the natural causal world. I think that a disagreementabout ontology underlies the division. I argue here that human action isproperly understood only by reference to a category of process or activity,where this is not a category of particulars.
Book synopsis: How is our conception of what there is affected by our counting ourselves as inhabitants of the natural world? How do our actions fit into a world that is altered through our agency? And how do we accommodate our understanding of one another as fellow subjects of experience—as beings with thoughts and wants and hopes and fears? These questions provide the impetus for the detailed discussions of ontology, human agency, and everyday psychological explanation presented in this book. The (...) answers offer a distinctive view of questions about “the mind’s place in nature,” and they argue for a particular position in philosophy of mind: naive naturalism. This position opposes the whole drift of the last thirty or forty years’ philosophy of mind in the English-speaking world. Jennifer Hornsby sets naive naturalism against dualism, but without advancing the claims of “materialism,” “physicalism,” or “naturalism” as these have come to be known. She shows how we can, and why we should, abandon the view that thoughts and actions, to be seen as real, must be subject to scientific explanation. (shrink)
I present a view of activity, taking it that an agent is engaged in activity so long as an action of hers is occurring. I suggest that this view (a) helps in understanding what goes wrong in an argument in Thompson (2008) known sometimes as the ‘initial segment argument’, and (b) enables us to see that there could be an intelligible conception of what is basic when agents' knowledge is allowed into an account of that.
The central claim is that the semantic knowledge exercised aby people when they speak is practical knowledge. The relevant idea of practical knowledge is explicated, applied to the case of speaking, and connected with an idea of agents' knowledge. Some defence of the claim is provided.
Williams explains why there might have been some point to a linguistic approach in ethics. I suggest that there might be some point to paying attention to an ethical dimension in philosophy of language. I shall consider words that I label ‘derogatory’, and questions they raise about linguistic meaning.
The central claim is that the semantic knowledge exercised by people when they speak is practical knowledge. The relevant idea of practical knowledge is explicated, applied to the case of speaking, and connected with an idea of agents’ knowledge. Some defence of the claim is provided.
This chapter replies to arguments, advanced by Gonzalo Rodriguez–Pereyra, for thinking that the intuitions that have inspired theories of truthmaking cannot be accommodated without commitment to truth-making entities. It contains a suggestion about why, even if there are no entities that make propositions true, we should nonetheless be apt to think of truth as grounded. The advocates of truthmakers engage sometimes in a specifically ontological enquiry of a wide-ranging sort, sometimes in the project of understanding truth. Inasmuch as Rodriguez–Pereyra's manner (...) of defending a truthmaker principle makes connections with both of these projects, the objections to his account made in the chapter rebound on them both. (shrink)
Since 1969, when Dennett introduced a distinction between personal and sub- personal levels of explanation, many philosophers have used 'sub- personal ' very loosely, and Dennett himself has abandoned a view of the personal level as genuinely autonomous. I recommend a position in which Dennett's original distinction is crucial, by arguing that the phenomenon called mental causation is on view only at the properly personal level. If one retains the commit-' ments incurred by Dennett's early distinction, then one has a (...) satisfactory anti-physicalistic, anti-dualist philosophy of mind. It neither interferes with the projects of sub- personal psychology, nor encourages ; instrumentalism at the personal level. (shrink)
Book synopsis: "What is truth?" has long been the philosophical question par excellence. The Nature of Truth collects in one volume the twentieth century's most influential philosophical work on the subject. The coverage strikes a balance between classic works and the leading edge of current philosophical research. The essays center around two questions: Does truth have an underlying nature? And if so, what sort of nature does it have? Thus the book discusses both traditional and deflationary theories of truth, as (...) well as phenomenological, postmodern, and pluralist approaches to the problem. The essays are organized by theory. Each of the seven sections opens with a detailed introduction that not only discusses the essays in that section but relates them to other relevant essays in the book. Eleven of the essays are previously unpublished or substantially revised. (shrink)
The thirteen specially-commissioned essays in this volume are written by philosophers at the forefront of feminist scholarship, and are designed to provide an accessible and stimulating guide to a philosophical literature that has seen massive expansion in recent years. Ranging from history of philosophy through metaphysics to philosophy of science, they encompass all the core subject areas commonly taught in anglophone undergraduate and graduate philosophy courses, offering both an overview of and a contribution to the relevant debates. Together they testify (...) to the intellectual value of feminism as a radicalizing energy internal to philosophical inquiry. This volume will be essential reading for any student or teacher of philosophy who is curious about the place of feminism in their subject. (shrink)
Book synopsis: Foundations of Speech Act Theory investigates the importance of speech act theory to the problem of meaning in linguistics and philosophy. The papers in this volume, written by respected philosophers and linguists, significantly advance standards of debate in this area. Beginning with a detailed introduction to the individual contributors, this collection demonstrates the relevance of speech acts to semantic theory. It includes essays unified by the assumption that current pragmatic theories are not well equipped to analyse speech acts (...) satisfactorily, and concludes with five studies which assess the relevance of speech act theory to the understanding of philosophical problems outside the area of philosophy of language. (shrink)
I want to promote what I shall call ‘the identity theory of truth’. I suggest that other accounts put forward as theories of truth are genuine rivals to it, but are unacceptable. A certain conception of thinkables belongs with the identity theory’s conception of truth. I introduce these conceptions in Part I, by reference to John McDowell’s Mind and World; and I show why they have a place in an identity theory, which I introduce by reference to Frege. In Part (...) II, I elaborate on the conception of thinkables, with a view to demonstrating that the identity theory’s conception of truth is defensible. Part III is concerned with the theory’s relation to some recent work on the concept of truth: I hope to show that the identity theorist not only has a defensible conception of truth, but also, in the present state of play, has appropriate ambitions. (shrink)
I. There are two points of view: ___ From the personal point of view, an action is a person's doing something for a reason, and her doing it is found intelligible when we know the reason that led her to it. ___ From the impersonal point of view, an action would be a link in a causal chain that could be viewed without paying any attention to people, the links being understood by reference to the world's causal workings.
I maintain that an account of knowledge how to do something – an account which might be supposed to uncover ‘the nature’ of such knowledge – can't be got by considering what linguists tell us is expressed in ascriptions of knowing how. Attention must be paid to the knowledge that is actually being exercised when someone is doing something. I criticize some claims about ascriptions of knowledge-how which derive from contemporary syntactic and semantic theory. I argue that these claims can (...) no more provide an understanding of what it is to intend to do something than of what it is to know how to do something. Philosophy, not linguistics, must be the source of such understanding. (shrink)
It is argued that the standard story of human action, as it is standardly naturalistically understood, should be rejected. Rather than seeking an agent amidst the workings of the mind (as in Velleman's "What Happens When Someone Acts"), we need to recognize an agent’s place in the world she inhabits. And in order to do so we have to resist the naturalistic assumptions of the standard causal story.
Many analytic philosophers of mind take for granted a certain conception of causality. Assumptions deriving from that conception are in place when they problematize what they call mental causation or argue for physicalism in respect of the mental. I claim that a different conception of causality is needed for understanding many ordinary causal truths about things which act, including truths about human, minded beings — sc. rational beings who lead lives.
Book synopsis: The aim of this collection of papers is to present different philosophical perspectives on the mental, exploring questions about how to define, explain and understand the various kinds of mental acts and processes, and exhibiting, in particular, the contrast between naturalistic and non-naturalistic approaches. There is a long tradition in philosophy of clarifying concepts such as those of thinking, knowing and believing. The task of clarifying these concepts has become ever more important with the major developments that have (...) taken place over the last century in the human and cognitive sciences - most notably, psychology, sociology, linguistics, neurophysiology, AI, and cognitive science itself. In all these sciences, there is a need to delineate the domain of the mental and to elucidate the key concepts and underlying assumptions. This need is widely recognized, but approaches and answers vary significantly. Some stress the representational features involved in most of our mental processes, others the inferential dimension; some stress the necessity of using empirical data, others the need to refine ideas before pursuing and drawing on empirical research. The papers collected in this volume are grouped into four parts, on language and thought, on knowledge, belief and action, on intentionality, and on naturalism. The volume will be welcomed by all those engaged and interested in debates about the mental in philosophy and the human and cognitive sciences. (shrink)
Book synopsis: The thirteen specially-commissioned essays in this volume are written by philosophers at the forefront of feminist scholarship, and are designed to provide an accessible and stimulating guide to a philosophical literature that has seen massive expansion in recent years. Ranging from history of philosophy through metaphysics to philosophy of science, they encompass all the core subject areas commonly taught in anglophone undergraduate and graduate philosophy courses, offering both an overview of and a contribution to the relevant debates. Together (...) they testify to the intellectual value of feminism as a radicalizing energy internal to philosophical inquiry. This volume will be essential reading for any student or teacher of philosophy who is curious about the place of feminism in their subject. (shrink)
Book synopsis: 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)
I look critically at accounts of human action which help themselves to a certain conception of the causal order when they treat actions as effects of mental states. Donald Davidson introduced such accounts in the shape of the “belief-desire theory.” By way of examining Davidson’s ideas about events, I undertake to show what conceptions of time and of causality are needed for understanding agency, and for a viable naturalism.
Book synopsis: The feminist movement has challenged many of the unstated assumptions on which ethics as a branch of philosophy has always rested - assumptions about human nature, moral agency, citizenship and kinship. The twenty-six readings in this book express the discontent of a succession of fiercely articulate women writers, from Mary Wollstonecraft to the present day, with the masculine bias of `morality'. The editors have contributed an overall introduction, which discusses ethics, feminism and feminist themes in ethics, and have (...) provided introductions to each of the readings, designed to situate in their historical and intellectual context. They have also compiled two lists for further reading: `Ethics: a Feminist Bibliography' and `The Male Tradition'. Ethics: A Feminist Reader is an essential resource for students and teachers of philosophy, political theory and women's studies. For anyone with a stake in progressive sexual politics it is an inspirational guide. (shrink)
We know what one dualist account of human action looks like, because Descartes gave us one. I want to explore the extent ot which presnet-day accounts of physical action are vulnerable to the charges that may be made against Descartes's dualist account. I once put forward an account of human action, and I have always maintained that my view about the basic shape of a correct ‘theory of aciton’ can be combined with a thoroughgoing opposition to dualism. But the possibility (...) of the combination has been doubted and it will remain doubtful until we have a better understanding of what makes an account objectionably dualistic. In this paper, I hope to deflect some of the criticims aimed what I shall call my account, and to show that when they are turned onto their proper path their actual target is some physicalist accounts. (shrink)
Book synopsis: The causal theory of action is widely recognized in the literature of the philosophy of action as the "standard story" of human action and agency—the nearest approximation in the field to a theoretical orthodoxy. This volume brings together leading figures working in action theory today to discuss issues relating to the CTA and its applications, which range from experimental philosophy to moral psychology. Some of the contributors defend the theory while others criticize it; some draw from historical sources (...) while others focus on recent developments; some rely on the tools of analytic philosophy while others cite the latest empirical research on human action. All agree, however, on the centrality of the CTA in the philosophy of action. The contributors first consider metaphysical issues, then reasons-explanations of action, and, finally, new directions for thinking about the CTA. They discuss such topics as the tenability of some alternatives to the CTA; basic causal deviance; the etiology of action ; teleologism and anticausalism; and the compatibility of the CTA with theories of embodied cognition. Two contributors engage in an exchange of views on intentional omissions that stretches over four essays, directly responding to each other in their follow-up essays. As the action -oriented perspective becomes more influential in philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science, this volume offers a long-needed debate over foundational issues. (shrink)
Book synopsis: The essays in this volume explore current work in central areas of philosophy, work unified by attention to salient questions of human action and human agency. They ask what it is for humans to act knowledgeably, to use language, to be friends, to act heroically, to be mortally fortunate, and to produce as well as to appreciate art.