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What Happens When Someone Acts?

Mind 101 (403):461-481 (1992)

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  1. Confabulating Reasons.Marianna Bergamaschi Ganapini & Marianna Bergamaschi Ganapini - 2020 - Topoi 39 (1):189-201.
    In this paper, I will focus on a type of confabulation that emerges in relation to questions about mental attitudes whose causes we cannot introspectively access. I argue against two popular views that see confabulations as mainly offering a psychological story about ourselves. On these views, confabulations are the result of either a cause-tracking mechanism or a self-directed mindreading mechanism. In contrast, I propose the view that confabulations are mostly telling a normative story: they are arguments primarily offered to justify (...)
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  • Normative Reasons Are Not Good Bases: A Reply to Gregory.Euan Metz - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (3):723-731.
    In a recent paper, Gregory defends the claim that a normative reason is a good basis for Φ-ing. He claims that a “basis” is what is commonly known as a motivating reason. By “good” Gregory means good in its attributive sense, as something which is good as a kind. In this paper I argue that it is not plausible that normative reasons are motivating reasons that are good as an instance of their kind. I argue that in order to assess (...)
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  • The Metaphysical Importance of the Compatibility Question: Comments on Mark Balaguer’s Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem.Michael McKenna - 2012 - Philosophical Studies (1):1-12.
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  • Replies to McKenna, Pereboom, and Kane.Mark Balaguer - 2012 - Philosophical Studies (1):1-22.
    The purpose of this essay is to respond to critiques of my recent book (Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem) put forward by Michael McKenna, Derk Pereboom, and Bob Kane in an Author-Meets-Critics session at the 2011 Pacific Division meeting of the APA.
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  • The Willing Addict: Actor or (Helpless) Bystander?Mark Leon - 2001 - Philosophia 28 (1-4):437-443.
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  • Habit and Intention.Christos Douskos - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (3):1129-1148.
    Several authors have argued that the things one does in the course of skilled and habitual activity present a difficult case for the ‘standard story’ of action. They are things intentionally done, but they do not seem to be suitably related to mental states. I suggest that once manifestations of habit are properly distinguished from exercises of skills and other kinds of spontaneous acts, we can see that habit raises a distinctive sort of problem. I examine certain responses that have (...)
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  • Agency of Belief and Intention.A. Flowerree - 2017 - Synthese 194 (8):2763-2784.
    In this paper, I argue for a conditional parity thesis: if we are agents with respect to our intentions, we are agents with respect to our beliefs. In the final section, I motivate a categorical version of the parity thesis: we are agents with respect to belief and intention. My aim in this paper is to show that there is no unique challenge facing epistemic agency that is not also facing agency with respect to intention. My thesis is ambitious on (...)
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  • The Volitive and the Executive Function of Intentions.Christoph Lumer - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (3):511-527.
    Many philosophers of action, including Bratman and Mele, conceive intentions functionally, as executive states: intentions are mental states that represent an action and tend to cause this action. In the philosophical tradition (e.g. for Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Leibniz, Kant) another function of intentions, which may be called “volitive”, played a much more prominent role: intentions are mental states that represent what kind of actions we want and prefer to be realised and thus, in a possibly rational way, synthesise our motivational, (...)
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  • Self-Knowledge and Rationality.Thomas Spitzley - 2009 - Erkenntnis 71 (1):73 - 88.
    The topic of this article is the dependency or, maybe, the interdependency of rationality and self-knowledge. Here two questions may be distinguished, viz. (1) whether being rational is a necessary condition for a creature to have self-knowledge, and (2) whether having self-knowledge is a necessary condition for a creature to be rational. After a brief explication of what I mean by self-knowledge, I deal with the first question. There I defend the Davidsonian position, according to which rationality is, indeed, a (...)
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  • Depression and Motivation.Benedict Smith - 2013 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 12 (4):615-635.
    Among the characteristic features of depression is a diminishment in or lack of action and motivation. In this paper, I consider a dominant philosophical account which purports to explain this lack of action or motivation. This approach comes in different versions but a common theme is, I argue, an over reliance on psychologistic assumptions about action–explanation and the nature of motivation. As a corrective I consider an alternative view that gives a prominent place to the body in motivation. Central to (...)
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  • Selflessness and Responsibility for Self: Is Deference Compatible with Autonomy?Andrea C. Westlund - 2003 - Philosophical Review 112 (4):483-523.
    She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg, if there was a draught, she sat in it—in short, she was so constituted that she never had a mind or wish of her own, but preferred to sympathise always with the minds and wishes of others. — Virginia Woolf (1979, 59).
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  • Agency, Consciousness, and Executive Control.Jesús H. Aguilar & Andrei A. Buckareff - 2009 - Philosophia 37 (1):21-30.
    On the Causal Theory of Action (CTA), internal proper parts of an agent such as desires and intentions are causally responsible for actions. CTA has increasingly come under attack for its alleged failure to account for agency. A recent version of this criticism due to François Schroeter proposes that CTA cannot provide an adequate account of either the executive control or the autonomous control involved in full-fledged agency. Schroeter offers as an alternative a revised understanding of the proper role of (...)
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  • Event-Causal Libertarianism, Functional Reduction, and the Disappearing Agent Argument.Christopher Evan Franklin - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (3):413-432.
    Event-causal libertarians maintain that an agent’s freely bringing about a choice is reducible to states and events involving him bringing about the choice. Agent-causal libertarians demur, arguing that free will requires that the agent be irreducibly causally involved. Derk Pereboom and Meghan Griffith have defended agent-causal libertarianism on this score, arguing that since on event-causal libertarianism an agent’s contribution to his choice is exhausted by the causal role of states and events involving him, and since these states and events leave (...)
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  • Mental Muscles and the Extended Will.Tillmann Vierkant - 2014 - Topoi 33 (1):1-9.
    In the wake of Clark and Chalmers famous argument for extended cognition some people have argued that willpower equally can extend into the environment (e.g. Heath and Anderson in The thief of time: philosophical essays on procrastination. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 233–252, 2010). In a recent paper Fabio Paglieri (Consciousness in interaction: the role of the natural and social context in shaping consciousness. John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp 179–206, 2012) provides an interesting argument to the effect that there might (...)
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  • Because I Believe It’s the Right Thing to Do.Joshua May - 2013 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (4):791-808.
    Our beliefs about which actions we ought to perform clearly have an effect on what we do. But so-called “Humean” theories—holding that all motivation has its source in desire—insist on connecting such beliefs with an antecedent motive. Rationalists, on the other hand, allow normative beliefs a more independent role. I argue in favor of the rationalist view in two stages. First, I show that the Humean theory rules out some of the ways we ordinarily explain actions. This shifts the burden (...)
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  • From Volitionalism to the Dual Aspect Theory of Action.Joshua Stuchlik - 2013 - Philosophia 41 (3):867-886.
    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 (...)
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  • Taking the Self Out of Self-Rule.Michael Garnett - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (1):21-33.
    Many philosophers believe that agents are self-ruled only when ruled by their (authentic) selves. Though this view is rarely argued for explicitly, one tempting line of thought suggests that self-rule is just obviously equivalent to rule by the self . However, the plausibility of this thought evaporates upon close examination of the logic of ‘self-rule’ and similar reflexives. Moreover, attempts to rescue the account by recasting it in negative terms are unpromising. In light of these problems, this paper instead proposes (...)
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  • Aristotle's Four Causes of Action.Bryan C. Reece - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):213-227.
    Aristotle’s typical procedure is to identify something's four causes. Intentional action has typically been treated as an exception: most think that Aristotle has the standard causalist account, according to which an intentional action is a bodily movement efficiently caused by an attitude of the appropriate sort. I show that action is not an exception to Aristotle’s typical procedure: he has the resources to specify four causes of action, and thus to articulate a powerful theory of action unlike any other on (...)
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  • The Disappearing Agent as an Exclusion Problem.Johannes Himmelreich - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    The disappearing agent problem is an argument in the metaphysics of agency. Proponents of the agent-causal approach argue that the rival event-causal approach fails to account for the fact that an agent is active. This paper examines an analogy between this disappearing agent problem and the exclusion problem in the metaphysics of mind. I develop the analogy between these two problems and survey existing solutions. I suggest that some solutions that have received significant attention in response to the exclusion problem (...)
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  • Free Will, Causality, and Neuroscience.Bernard Feltz, Marcus Missal & Andrew Cameron Sims (eds.) - 2019 - Brill.
    This book aims to show that recent developments in neuroscience permit a defense of free will. Through language, human beings can escape strict biological determinism.
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  • Downward Causation and Supervenience: The Non-Reductionist’s Extra Argument for Incompatibilism.Joana Rigato - 2018 - Philosophical Explorations 21 (3):384-399.
    Agent-causal theories of free will, which rely on a non-reductionist account of the agent, have traditionally been associated with libertarianism. However, some authors have recently argued in favor of compatibilist agent-causal accounts. In this essay, I will show that such accounts cannot avoid serious problems of implausibility or incoherence. A careful analysis of the implications of non-reductionist views of the agent (event-causal or agent-causal as they may be) reveals that such views necessarily imply either the denial of the principle of (...)
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  • The Relations Between Agency, Identification, and Alienation.Alec Hinshelwood - 2013 - Philosophical Explorations 16 (3):243-258.
    This paper examines the relations between, on the one hand, accounts of the distinction between an agent's identifying with, as opposed to feeling alienated from, their attitudes; and on the other, metaphysical accounts of action. It claims that a commitment to an event-causal conception of agency, which would analyse agency in terms of the causal potency of psychological states and events, appears to render mandatory a particular style of account of identification and alienation – namely, the hierarchical model offered by (...)
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  • Good Intentions and the Road to Hell.Sarah K. Paul - 2017 - Philosophical Explorations 20 (2):40-54.
    G.E.M. Anscombe famously remarked that an adequate philosophy of psychology was needed before we could do ethics. Fifty years have passed, and we should now ask what significance our best theories of the psychology of agency have for moral philosophy. My focus is on non-moral conceptions of autonomy and self-governance that emphasize the limits of deliberation -- the way in which one's cares render certain options unthinkable, one's intentions and policies filter out what is inconsistent with them, and one's resolutions (...)
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  • Agency and Normative Self-Governance.Matthew Silverstein - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (3):517-528.
    We are agents: we can deliberate about what to do, and then act on the basis of that deliberation. We are also capable of normative self-governance: we can identify and respond to reasons as reasons. Many theorists believe that these two capacities are intimately connected. On the basis of this connection they conclude that practical reasoning must be carried out under the guise of a justification. This paper explores two strategies for avoiding that conclusion. The first, which just denies the (...)
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  • Agent Causation as a Solution to the Problem of Action.Michael Brent - 2017 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (5):656-673.
    My primary aim is to defend a nonreductive solution to the problem of action. I argue that when you are performing an overt bodily action, you are playing an irreducible causal role in bringing about, sustaining, and controlling the movements of your body, a causal role best understood as an instance of agent causation. Thus, the solution that I defend employs a notion of agent causation, though emphatically not in defence of an account of free will, as most theories of (...)
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  • Bratman on Identity Over Time and Identification at a Time.Christopher Evan Franklin - 2017 - Philosophical Explorations 20 (1):1-14.
    According to reductionists about agency, an agent’s bringing something about is reducible to states and events involving the agent bringing something about. Many have worried that reductionism cannot accommodate robust forms of agency, such as self-determination. One common reductionist answer to this worry contends that self-determining agents are identified with certain states and events, and so these states and events causing a decision counts as the agent’s self-determining the decision. In this paper, I discuss Michael Bratman’s well-known identification reductionist theory (...)
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  • The Platonic Model: Statement, Clarification and Defense.Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin - 2015 - Philosophical Explorations 18 (3):378-392.
    I defend Gary Watson's Platonic Model of free agency against two arguments by counterexample, one by J. David Velleman and the other by Michael Bratman. I claim that these arguments are unconvincing for three reasons. First, they do not accurately target the Platonic Model. Second, they do not convincingly present cases of self-governed action. Third, they call attention to issues about theoretical commitments that are not fit to be settled by appeal to cases. On the basis of this discussion, I (...)
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  • Deciding as Intentional Action: Control Over Decisions.Joshua Shepherd - 2015 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (2):335-351.
    Common-sense folk psychology and mainstream philosophy of action agree about decisions: these are under an agent's direct control, and are thus intentional actions for which agents can be held responsible. I begin this paper by presenting a problem for this view. In short, since the content of the motivational attitudes that drive deliberation and decision remains open-ended until the moment of decision, it is unclear how agents can be thought to exercise control over what they decide at the moment of (...)
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  • Agency as Difference-Making: Causal Foundations of Moral Responsibility.Johannes Himmelreich - 2015 - Dissertation, London School of Economics and Political Science
    We are responsible for some things but not for others. In this thesis, I investigate what it takes for an entity to be responsible for something. This question has two components: agents and actions. I argue for a permissive view about agents. Entities such as groups or artificially intelligent systems may be agents in the sense required for responsibility. With respect to actions, I argue for a causal view. The relation in virtue of which agents are responsible for actions is (...)
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  • Processes, Continuants, and Individuals.Helen Steward - 2013 - Mind 122 (487):fzt080.
    The paper considers and opposes the view that processes are best thought of as continuants, to be differentiated from events mainly by way of the fact that the latter, but not the former, are entities with temporal parts. The motivation for the investigation, though, is not so much the defeat of what is, in any case, a rather implausible claim, as the vindication of some of the ideas and intuitions that the claim is made in order to defend — and (...)
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  • Higher-Order Preferences and the Master Rationality Motive.Keith E. Stanovich - 2008 - Thinking and Reasoning 14 (1):111 – 127.
    The cognitive critique of the goals and desires that are input into the implicit calculations that result in instrumental rationality is one aspect of what has been termed broad rationality (Elster, 1983). This cognitive critique involves, among other things, the search for rational integration (Nozick, 1993)—that is, consistency between first-order and second-order preferences. Forming a second-order preference involves metarepresentational abilities made possible by mental decoupling operations. However, these decoupling abilities are separable from the motive that initiates the cognitive critique itself. (...)
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  • Intentional Action First.Yair Levy - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (4):705-718.
    The paper motivates a novel research programme in the philosophy of action parallel to the ‘Knowledge First’ programme in epistemology. It is argued that much of the grounds for abandoning the quest for a reductive analysis of knowledge in favour of the Knowledge First alternative is mirrored in the case of intentional action, inviting the hypothesis that intentional action is also, like knowledge, metaphysically basic. The paper goes on to demonstrate the sort of explanatory contribution that intentional action can make (...)
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  • Autonomy and Akrasia.Alfred R. Mele - 2002 - Philosophical Explorations 5 (3):207 – 216.
    Strict akratic actions, by definition, are performed freely. However, agents may seem not to be selfgoverned with respect to such actions and therefore not to perform them autonomously. If appearance matches reality here, freedom and autonomy part company in this sphere. Do they? That is this article's guiding question. To make things manageable, it is assumed that there are free actions, including strict akratic actions. Two theses are defended. First, the combination of (i) an intentional action's being uncompelled and (ii) (...)
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  • Magical Agents, Global Induction, and the Internalism/Externalism Debate.Ishtiyaque Haji & Stefaan E. Cuypers - 2007 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (3):343 – 371.
    Externalism is the view that facts about one's history or past in the external world that bear on the acquisition of one's responsibility-grounding psychological elements are pertinent to whether one's actions are free and, hence, pertinent to whether one can be morally responsible for them. Internalism is the thesis that the conditions of moral responsibility can be specified independently of facts about how the person acquired her responsibility-grounding psychological elements. In this paper we defend a position that navigates between externalism (...)
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  • Gert on Subjective Practical Rationality.Christian Miller - 2008 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (5):551-561.
    The purpose of this paper is to consider Joshua Gert’s novel view of subjective practical rationality in his book Brute Rationality. After briefly outlining the account, I present two objections to his view and then consider his own objections to a rival approach to understanding subjective rationality which I take to be much more plausible.
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  • Reflection, Reason, and Free Will.Timothy Schroeder - 2007 - Philosophical Explorations 10 (1):77 – 84.
    Ju¨rgen Habermas has a familiar style of compatibilism to offer, according to which a person has free will insofar as that person responds appropriately to her reasons. But because of the ways in which Habermas understands reasons and causes, he sees a special objection to his style of compatibilism: it is not clear that our reasons can suitably cause our responses. This objection, however, takes us out of the realm of free will and into the realm of mental causation. In (...)
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  • Epistemic Responsibility Without Epistemic Agency.Pascal Engel - 2009 - Philosophical Explorations 12 (2):205 – 219.
    This article discusses the arguments against associating epistemic responsibility with the ordinary notion of agency. I examine the various 'Kantian' views which lead to a distinctive conception of epistemic agency and epistemic responsibility. I try to explain why we can be held responsible for our beliefs in the sense of obeying norms which regulate them without being epistemic agents.
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  • Why Care About Being an Agent.Caroline T. Arruda - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (3):488-504.
    The question ‘Why care about being an agent?’ asks for reasons to be something that appears to be non-optional. But perhaps it is closer to the question ‘Why be moral?’; or so I shall argue. Here the constitutivist answer—that we cannot help but have this aim—seems to be the best answer available. I suggest that, regardless of whether constitutivism is true, it is an incomplete answer. I argue that we should instead answer the question by looking at our evaluative commitments (...)
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  • Agency, Narrative, and Mortality.Roman Altshuler - forthcoming - In Luca Ferrero (ed.), Routledge Handbook for the Philosophy of Agency. New York: Routledge.
    Narrative views of agency and identity arise in opposition to reductionism in both domains. While reductionists understand both identity and agency in terms of their components, narrativists respond that life and action are both constituted by narratives, and since the components of a narrative gain their meaning from the whole, life and action not only incorporate their constituent parts but also shape them. I first lay out the difficulties with treating narrative as constitutive of metaphysical identity and turn to its (...)
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  • Expressive Actions.Monika Betzler - 2009 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 52 (3):272-292.
    Actions expressing emotions (such as caressing the clothes of one's dead friend in grief, or tearing apart a photograph out of jealousy) pose a notorious challenge to action theorists. They are thought to be intentional in that they are in some sense under the agent's control. They are not thought to be done for a reason, however, because they cannot be explained by considerations that favor them from the agent's point of view. This seems to be the case, at least, (...)
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  • Willensfreiheit.Geert Keil - 2017 - Berlin: De Gruyter.
    Das Buch verschafft einen Überblick über die neuere Willensfreiheitsdebatte, wobei es auch die Konsequenzen der Hirnforschung für das Freiheitsproblem erörtert. Ferner entwickelt der Autor eine eigene Position, die er 'fähigkeitsbasierten Libertarismus' nennt. Er widerspricht dem breiten philosophischen Konsens, dass jedenfalls eine Art von Freiheit mit einem naturwissenschaftlichen Weltbild unverträglich sei, nämlich die Fähigkeit, sich unter gegebenen Bedingungen so oder anders zu entscheiden. Im Buch wird argumentiert, dass der libertarischen Freiheitsauffassung, die wir im Alltag alle teilen, bei näherer Betrachtung keine Tatschen (...)
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  • Autonomy, Rationality, and Contemporary Bioethics.Jonathan Pugh - 2020 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    Personal autonomy is often lauded as a key value in contemporary Western bioethics. Though the claim that there is an important relationship between autonomy and rationality is often treated as uncontroversial in this sphere, there is also considerable disagreement about how we should cash out the relationship. In particular, it is unclear whether a rationalist view of autonomy can be compatible with legal judgments that enshrine a patient's right to refuse medical treatment, regardless of whether the reasons underpinning the choice (...)
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  • General Solution to All Philosophical Problems With Some Exceptions.Wayde Beasley - forthcoming - north of parallel 40: Numerous uncommitted.
    Philosophy is unsolved. My forthcoming book sets forth the final resolution, with some exceptions, to this 2,500 year crisis. I am currently close to finishing page 983.
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  • The Counterfactual Theory of Free Will: A Genuinely Deterministic Form of Soft Determinism.Rick Repetti - 2010 - Saarbrücken, Germany: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing.
    I argue for a soft compatibilist theory of free will, i.e., such that free will is compatible with both determinism and indeterminism, directly opposite hard incompatibilism, which holds free will incompatible both with determinism and indeterminism. My intuitions in this book are primarily based on an analysis of meditation, but my arguments are highly syncretic, deriving from many fields, including behaviorism, psychology, conditioning and deconditioning theory, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, simulation theory, etc. I offer a causal/functional analysis of (...)
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  • Kantian Morals and Humean Motives.Philip Clark - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (1):109–126.
    The idea that moral imperatives are categorical is commonly used to support internalist claims about moral judgment. I argue that the categorical quality of moral requirements shows at most that moral motivation need not flow from a background desire to be moral. It does not show that moral judgments can motivate by themselves, or that amoralism is impossible.
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  • Endorsement and Autonomous Agency.François Schroeter - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (3):633 - 659.
    We take self-governance or autonomy to be a central feature of human agency: we believe that our actions normally occur under our guidance and at our command. A common criticism of the standard theory of action is that it leaves the agent out of his actions and thus mischaracterizes our autonomy. According to proponents of the endorsement model of autonomy, such as Harry Frankfurt and David Velleman, the standard theory simply needs to be supplemented with the agent's actual endorsement of (...)
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  • The Structure of Instrumental Practical Reasoning.Christian Miller - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (1):1–40.
    The view to be defended in this paper is intended to be a novel and compelling model of instrumental practical reasoning, reasoning aimed at determining how to act in order to achieve a given end in a certain set of circumstances. On standard views of instrumental reasoning, the end in question is the object of a particular desire that the agent has, a desire which, when combined with the agent’s beliefs about what means are available to him or her in (...)
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  • Skilled Activity and the Causal Theory of Action.Randolph Clarke - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (3):523-550.
    Skilled activity, such as shaving or dancing, differs in important ways from many of the stock examples that are employed by action theorists. Some critics of the causal theory of action contend that such a view founders on the problem of skilled activity. This paper examines how a causal theory can be extended to the case of skilled activity and defends the account from its critics.
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  • A Splitting “Mind-Ache”: Challenge to Kantian Self-Legislation.Reshef Agam-Segal - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Research 38:43-68.
    I problematize the notion of self-legislation. I follow in Elizabeth Anscombe’s footsteps and suggest that on a plausible reading of Kant, he does not so much misidentify the sources of moral normativity, as fail to identify any such sources in the first place: The set of terms with which the Kantian is attempting to do so is confused. Interpreters today take Kant’s legal language to be merely metaphorical. The language of ‘self-legislation,’ in particular, is replaced by such interpreters with a (...)
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  • The Action as Conclusion.Philip Clark - 2001 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (4):481-505.
    On the question of the conclusion of a piece of practical reasoning, few have been willing to follow Aristotle's lead. He said the conclusion was an action. These days, the conclusion is usually described either as a proposition about what one ought to do, or as a psychological state or event, such as a decision to do something, an intention to do something, or a belief about what one ought to do. Why favor these options over the action-as-conclusion view? By (...)
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