Effort and the Standard Story of Action

Philosophical Writings 40:19 - 27 (2012)
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In this paper, I present an alternative account of action that improves upon what has come to be known as the standard story. The standard story depicts actions as events that are caused by and made intelligible through the appropriate combinations of the agent’s beliefs, desires, decisions, intentions and other motivational factors. I argue that the standard story is problematic because it depicts the relation between the agent and their bodily actions as causally mediated by their motivational factors. On the alternative account that I present, whenever an agent performs a bodily action, they do so by exerting a distinctive kind of effort so as to initiate, sustain, and control their own bodily capacities, an essential feature of bodily action that is absent from the standard story.

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Michael Brent
Columbia University (PhD)


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