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Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1968
Pages: 152
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Professor Brown in this volume discusses one of the most difficult questions in metaphysics, "what is action?" His analysis proceeds along three main lines of thought: the point of view of the agent, the primacy of inanimate action, and the pervasiveness of explanatory insight in the description of action.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-3258-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. 1 The point of view of the agent
    (pp. 3-27)

    This essay offers a sketch of the concept of action. Some intuitive convictions of mine about the inner workings of the concept have determined the order in which I assemble the details of conceptual fact and examine the problems arising. In particular, there are three lines of thought which may serve to make intelligible the point of departure and the main divisions of the essay. These lines of thought concern 1) the point of view of the agent, 2) the primacy of inanimate action, and 3) the pervasiveness of explanatory insight in the description of action.

    1) In ethics and...

  4. 2 The agent and his body
    (pp. 28-59)

    The category of things which it makes sense to consider doing seems determinate enough.¹ But the definition of the category moves at a height of abstraction which leaves one short of breath. Somehow or other, having located this form, we need to understand where the content might come from to provide the instances for it. There are several ways in which we might try to do this. Can we say anything which holds generally for everything in the category? Can we find classifications broad enough to be instructive? Or can we locate nuclear cases, and trace instructive progressions from these...

  5. 3 The origin of the idea of agency
    (pp. 60-102)

    On the face of it there are at least two kinds of action—inanimate and human. One can also identify two corresponding groups of familiar problems. Some problems recognizably turn upon the nature of inanimate action, natural causation, the relation of cause and effect, causation in science, or whatever it is called; some turn upon the nature of human action, the conduct of responsible agents, intentional action, or the will. The relation between the two kinds of action is both a problem in itself and, historically, a resource invoked for the analysis of either kind. Some writers have also worked...

  6. 4 The attribution of effects
    (pp. 103-148)

    In Chapter 2 I used the distinction between inanimate and human action in terms of which to describe, from the point of view of the agent, the role of the agent's body in providing the basic content of his action. This distinction itself presented a problem, that of relating the contrasting differentiae of these two species of doing, and this problem remains unsolved. But the distinction also served to introduce two more problems. I went on in Chapter 3 to examine, for each kind of action, a traditional enterprise of analysis. With regard to inanimate action, as a species of...

  7. Index
    (pp. 149-151)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 152-152)