The paper discusses the category of one of the most fundamental expressions of agency, those movements of agents that are actions. There have been three dominant views of action since the 1960s: 1. the Causal Theory of Action, 2. the Tryings/Willings view, and 3. Agent Causation. These views claim that actions are: 1. events of bodily movements which have the right causes; 2. specific types of mental events causing events of bodily movements; 3. instances of the causal relationship between agents and events of bodily movements. Among other arguments, a specific interpretation of the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs has been taken by defenders of the Tryings/Willings views and Agent Causation to support their main claims.
The paper argues that these three views mischaracterise actions of bodily movements. It argues for this by highlighting some implausible claims and problems of the three views; by offering an interpretation of the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs that does not lend support to these views; and finally, by providing an alternative view of actions. This view is the Pluralist View according to which agents’ movements are the activations of agents’ abilities to move.