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Theories of Action

  • Bruce Aune
Chapter
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Part of the Philosophical Studies Series in Philosophy book series (PSSP, volume 9)

Abstract

The first part of this chapter is concerned with three rival theories of action. Each theory conceives of an action as an event or process in time, or as an aggregate of such events and processes; and each conceives of an action as adequately individuated by virtue of its causes and effects. I shall argue that, if a metaphysical commitment to events is accepted, no one of the theories is clearly preferable to the others. This is a surprising result, since the theories are espoused by philosophers as diverse in orientation as H. A. Prichard, Donald Davidson and R. G. Collingwood. In the last section of the chapter I argue that a metaphysical commitment to events is actually questionable and that, if it is rejected, a theory of agents must be accepted as clearly preferable to any theory that is explicitly concerned with actions and attempts to specify the conditions of their identity.

Keywords

Singular Term Physical Movement Equivalent Formula Complex Predicate Action Sentence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Ludwig Wittgetstein, Philosophical Investigations, tr. Anscombe (Oxford, 1953), I, sec. 621; and David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Bk. II, sect. III.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    H. A. Prichard, ‘Acting, Willing, and Desiring’, in Prichard, Moral Obligation (Oxford, 1945), pp. 89–98. Reprinted in A. R. white, The Philosophy of Action (Oxford, 1968), pp. 59–69. My references in the text are to the reprint in White.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    P. J. Fitzgerald, ‘Voluntary and Involuntary Acts’ in A. G. Guest (ed.), Oxford Essays in Jurisprudence (Oxford, 1961), pp. 1–28. Reprinted in White, pp. 120–143. The quote passage occurs on p. 126 of White.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    J. L. Austin, ‘A Plea for Excuses’, in Philosophical Papers (Oxford, 1961 ), p. 149.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Donald Davidson, ‘Actions, Reasons, and Causes,’ Journal of Philosophy 69 (1963), 685–700. Reprinted in White, pp. 79–94.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    See H. L. A. Hart and A. M. Honore, Causation and the Law (Oxford, 1959), Ch. 1.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    R. G. Collingwood, An Essay on Metaphysics (Oxford, 1940 ), p. 296.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Davidson, ‘Agency’, in Robert Binkley et al., Agent, Action, and Reason (Toronto, 1971), pp. 3–25.Google Scholar
  9. 23.
    see Alvin Goldman, A Theory of Human Action ( Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1970 ), p. 2.Google Scholar
  10. 27.
    See Usrael Scheffler, The Anatomy of Inquiry (New York, 1963), pp. 55–76.Google Scholar
  11. 30.
    Wilfrid Sellars, ‘Fatalism and Determinism’, in Keith Lehrer (ed.), Freedom and Determinism(New York, 1966 ), p. 159.Google Scholar
  12. 31.
    See R. G. Collingwood, The New Leviathan (Oxford, 1942 ), pp. 97f.Google Scholar
  13. 32.
    See Rudolf Carnap, ‘Two concepts of Probability’, in H. Feigi and W. Sellars (eds.), Reading in Philosophycal Analysis (New York, 1949 ), p. 330.Google Scholar
  14. 54.
    See Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (London, 1946), p. 288.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce Aune
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Massachusetts at AmherstAmherstUSA

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