Pluralistic Attitude-Explanation and the Mechanisms of Intentional Action.

In David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, Vol 7. Oxford, UK: pp. 130-153 (2021)
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According to the Causal Theory of Action (CTA), genuine actions are individuated by their causal history. Actions are bodily movements that are causally explained by citing the agent’s reasons. Reasons are then explained as some combination of propositional attitudes – beliefs, desires, and/or intentions. The CTA is thus committed to realism about the attitudes. This paper explores current models of decision-making from the mind sciences, and argues that it is far from obvious how to locate the propositional attitudes in the causal processes they describe. The outcome of the analysis is a proposal for pluralism: there are several ways one could attempt to map states like “intention” onto decision-making processes, but none will fulfill all of the roles attributed to the attitudes by the CTA.

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Daniel Burnston
Tulane University


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