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Agent, Action, and Reason

Agent, Action, and Reason

Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 202
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  • Book Info
    Agent, Action, and Reason
    Book Description:

    This volume contains the papers and commentaries presented at the fourth philosophy colloquium at the University of Western Ontario in November 1968. The papers examine, from different points of view, the central problems in the philosophy of action.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5696-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Agency
    (pp. 3-25)
    Donald Davidson

    What events in the life of a person reveal agency; what are his deeds and his doings in contrast to mere happenings in his history; what is the mark that distinguishes his actions?

    This morning I was awakened by the sound of someone practising the violin. I dozed a bit, then got up, washed, shaved, dressed, and went downstairs, turning off a light in the hall as I passed. I poured myself some coffee, stumbled on the edge of the dining room rug, and spilled a bit of coffee fumbling for theNew York Times.

    Some of these items record...

    (pp. 26-37)

    There are several very interesting points that Professor Davidson makes in his paper, and, although I shall not discuss them all in detail, I would at least like to highlight some of them with a few comments. In order of appearance they are as follows. First, Davidson defines, or at least provides necessary and sufficient conditions for, “PersonPis the agent of eventa” in terms ofP’s intentions and descriptions ofa.I shall discuss this point in detail and try to show that, as I understand Davidson’s views, he faces objections to both the “if” and the...

  6. 2 On the Logic of Intentional Action
    (pp. 38-69)
    Roderick Chisholm

    I shall consider certain concepts that seem to me essential for understanding action and intention; I shall attempt to show how they may be explicated in terms of the concept of causation and one other undefined concept; I shall make some suggestions about the logic of this locution, a logic that is similar in fundamental respects to that of necessity and possibility; and then I shall apply these considerations to a number of philosophical questions pertaining to the nature of action.¹

    The philosophical background of this paper may be suggested by the following general theses: that persons, or selves, are...

    (pp. 69-75)

    Professor Chisholm has offered us a very interesting but extremely intricate paper. Although I disagree with some of the basic assumptions on which his system appears to be based — particularly those concerning states of affairs and quantification — I shall direct my remarks chiefly to the axioms and definitions he has carefully formulated.

    But first a general point. Chisholm tells us¹ that a more appropriate title for his paper would be “Prolegomena to the Logic of Intentional Action.” I agree entirely with this remark. A fully developed logic of intentional action must have a kind of completeness; it must exhibit the...

  8. Reply
    (pp. 76-80)

    I appreciate the care and attention that Professor Aune has devoted to my paper. His comments are all to the point, and where he has failed to understand me, the fault is mine and not his. He has made clear the need for further explicating certain points and he has formulated several serious objections. I shall discuss: (1) the case of the frightened burglar; (2) the case of the happy depositor; (3) the iterability of “He makes it happen that”; and (4) the limitations of the proposed definition of basic action.

    I The case of the frightened burglar, as Aune...

  9. 3 Wanting: Some Pitfalls
    (pp. 81-97)
    R. M. Hare

    The first part of this paper is an attempt to find a hole in Professor Max Black’s argument in his article “The Gap between ‘Is’ and ‘Should.’ ”¹ Let me start with a concrete example. Uncle John, an elderly and rich bachelor, and his nephew and sole heir, James, are fishing from a small boat in shark-infested waters out of sight of other vessels. As they are waiting for a bite, James says:

    JAMES Do you know, there’s nothing in the world I want more than to have half a million dollars, and spend it on enjoying myself.


    (pp. 98-108)

    In this paper Professor Hare’s primary concern is with the role of wanting in practical reasoning. His positive thesis I take to be twofold: (a) it is appropriate to express wants as imperatives (commands, imperations); (b) it is wants, expressed as imperatives, which are required as premisses in practical inferences.

    The second part of his paper is concerned, if somewhat indirectly, with a defence of (a). I can find little positive argument to support it. However, Hare does show that certain counter-arguments are fallacious, because they confuse the genus imperative with the species hortative (Pears) or command (Bell). I agree...

    (pp. 108-127)
    D. F. PEARS

    In the first section of the second part of Hare’s “Wanting: Some Pitfalls” (pp. 91–92), I am supposed to have slipped into one of the pitfalls which await philosophers who deviate from the true account of intending. I do not agree with this description of my present position, and I shall try to show that it is not even precarious. I shall also do two other things in this note. I shall put Kenny’s theory back where it belongs in the wider setting in which he presented it in his book Action, Emotion and Will, 1 and I shall...

  12. 4 Two Problems about Reasons for Actions
    (pp. 128-153)
    D. F. Pears

    To give my reason for my action is to connect it with my desires and factual beliefs. I need not always describe both, because sometimes the description of my operative desires makes it obvious what my factual beliefs must have been, andvice versa.Nor need I always describe my action when I give my reason for it. But my statement of my reason will always rest on three descriptions, explicit or implicit in what I say, a description of my action, a description of my operative desires, and a description of my relevant factual beliefs.

    This is a rough...

    (pp. 154-166)

    When we investigate human behaviour, we commonly ask both what a person is doing and why. Men’s deeds and their grounds for acting appear to be distinct phenomena. They must be, if one’s attitudes and thoughts ever cause one to act. Yet, as Professor Pears reminds us, we often specify what a man is doing in terms that seem to entail that he had some particular reason for doing it; and conversely, if we limit ourselves to reporting someone’s conative attitudes, we nevertheless seem to be providing information about how he will act in favourable circumstances. The descriptions by which...

  14. 5 A Bibliography of the Philosophy of Action
    (pp. 167-200)
    Robert McGowan and Myron Gochnauer

    This is intended to be a substantial, though not an exhaustive, bibliography of recent work in the philosophy of action. Completeness is impossible, if for no other reason, because the boundaries of the subject are impossible to draw firmly. The strategy here has been to concentrate on work published since the Second World War, and to avoid following the subject too deeply into ethics, philosophy of mind, and other neighbouring branches of philosophy.

    The abbreviations of journal titles are, where possible, those ofPhilosopher’s Index,and should be obvious without a key. The bibliography is so arranged that each item...

  15. Index
    (pp. 201-203)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 204-204)