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Summary "Action Theory" as it is used here is the sub-area in the philosophy of action/agency that is concerned chiefly with the foundations of the broader sub-discipline. Central problems include the nature and scope of intentional action and agency, the explanation of action, and our knowledge of our actions. Most of the other problems that fall within the scope of this category at PhilPapers are closely related to such foundational questions.
Key works [BROKEN REFERENCE: DORRAC-2w]#DORRAC-2Perhaps the two most influential works that have shaped the current state of action theory are Anscombe 1957 and Davidson 1963. Davidson's essay is the locus classicus for the causal theory of action and for causalism about reason-explanations of actions. Anscombe's book has been influential among proponents of non-causal theories of action and reason-explanation. For a classic defense of the agent-causal perspective, see Chisholm 1966. And for a volitionist perspective, see McCann 1974. Some collections of essays that may help readers get a sense of the major debates in action theory today include Mele 1997, Aguilar & Buckareff 2010, Aguilar & Buckareff 2009, and D'Oro & Sandis 2013.
Introductions The following are good places to start to for those looking for guides to the current state of the art in action theory. Mele 2005 Mele 1992 Wilson 2008
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  1. Forrest E. Baird (1992). Human Thought and Action. Upa.
    A book of readings in Western intellectual history focusing on the role of reason in human action. Contents:^ Plato: Myth of the Cave; Plato: ^IThe Four Virtues; Aristotle: Knowledge of Causes; Aristotle: The Types of Governments; Epicurus: Epicureanism; Epictetus: Stoicism; St. Augustine: The Platonist; St. Augustine: The Nature of Sources of Evil; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Four Laws; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Nature of the Soul; Pico: The Oration on the Dignity of Man; John Calvin: Reason, Sin and Illumination; St. (...)
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  2. S. J. Boey (2013). De dubbele oorspronkelijkheid Van blondels “action”. Bijdragen 24 (2):130-153.
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  3. Graeme MacQueen (2008). WhatValues Underlie Our Actions? In Neil Arya & Joanna Santa Barbara (eds.), Peace Through Health: How Health Professionals Can Work for a Less Violent World. Kumarian Press 1075.
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  4. V. Mangalvedkar (1919). The Philosophy of Action of Lok. B.G. Tilak's Githarahasya. Indian Literature Publishers.
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  5. Alfred R. Mele (1984). Michael A. Simon: "Understanding Human Action". [REVIEW] The Thomist 48 (1):121.
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  6. Wendy Messenger (2009). Managing Multi-Agency Working. In Michael Reed & Natalie Canning (eds.), Reflective Practice in the Early Years. Sage 126.
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  7. Denise Meyerson (1994). When Are My Actions Due to Me? Analysis 54 (3):171 - 174.
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  8. Patricia G. Milanich (1984). Allowing, Refraining, and Failing: The Structure of Omissions. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 45 (1):57 - 67.
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  9. Fred D. Miller Jr (1975). Actions and Results. Philosophical Quarterly 25 (101):350-354.
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  10. Arthur R. Miller (1981). Ii. Intentions and Conditions of Satisfaction. Inquiry 24 (1):115 – 121.
    This paper discusses a problem arising from the way in which John Searle marks the distinction between intentional and unintentional action (Inquiry, Vol. 22, pp. 253?80), namely, that of adequately distinguishing those events which we regard as unintentional actions on the part of an agent from those other events occasioned by or brought about as a result of his action which we (correctly) do not countenance as actions of any sort ? unintentional or otherwise. Searle's attempt to distinguish them in (...)
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  11. Christian Miller (2009). Divine Will Theory: Intentions or Desires? In Jonathan L. Kvanvig (ed.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion: Volume 2. OUP Oxford
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  12. Theodore Mischel (1971). Human Action. Conceptual and Empirical Issues. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 31 (4):606-608.
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  13. Walter Mischel (1996). From Good Intentions to Willpower. In P. Gollwitzer & John A. Bargh (eds.), The Psychology of Action: Linking Cognition and Motivation to Behavior. Guilford 9--197.
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  14. Dieter Misgeld (1980). Ultimate Self-Responsibility, Practical Reasoning, and Practical Action: Habermas, Husserl, and Ethnomethodology on Discourse and Action. [REVIEW] Human Studies 3 (1):255 - 278.
    A particular notion of reason has pervaded studies of practical action throughout the whole tradition of western philosophy up to Wittgenstein and Heidegger. This notion has been centrally located in contexts other than the specific study of practical action itself.This essay examines the relation of reason and practical action by reviewing Habermas' and Husserl's theories of the relation between discourse and action (I), and then proposing Garfinkel's ethnomethodological studies of practical action as an alternative to Husserl's and Habermas' preoccupation with (...)
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  15. James S. Morgan (1982). Actions. Philosophical Studies 29:345-348.
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  16. Adam Morton (2015). Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together. Philosophical Quarterly 65 (260):582-585.
    I praise Bratman's minimal account of shared agency, while expressing some doubts about the explanatory force of his central concepts and some puzzlement about what he means by norms.
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  17. John Mullarkey, Almost Nothing Happening: An Essay on Action and Event.
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  18. Frank Wright Neely (1967). The Metaphysics of Action. Dissertation, Yale University
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  19. Anne Newstead (2009). Interpreting Anscombe's Intention §32FF. Journal of Philosophical Research 34:157-176.
    G. E. M. Anscombe’s view that agents know what they are doing “without observation” has been met with skepticism and the charge of confusion and falsehood. Simultaneously, some commentators think that Anscombe has captured an important truth about the first-personal character of an agent’s awareness of her actions. This paper attempts an explanation and vindication of Anscombe’s view. The key to the vindication lies in focusing on the role of practical knowledge in an agent’s knowledge of her actions. Few commentators, (...)
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  20. Lowell Nissen (1983). Wright on Teleological Descriptions of Goal-Directed Behavior. Philosophy of Science 50 (1):151-158.
    Larry Wright's analysis of teleological description of goal-directed behavior, though ingenious and insightful, errs in the following ways: it incorrectly claims that intentional human action exhibits consequence-etiology, making it impossible, contrary to his claim, for reference to consequence-etiology to be metaphorically transmitted to teleological descriptions of nonhuman behavior; it does not remove the threat of reverse causation for nonhuman behavior; it assumes in the face of contrary evidence that reference to purpose drops out in metaphorical extension; and it cannot account (...)
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  21. Brian O'Shaughnessy (1991). Searle's Theory of Action. In Ernest LePore (ed.), John Searle and His Critics. Cambridge: Blackwell
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  22. Matthew B. O.’Brien & Robert C. Koons (2012). Objects of Intention. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 86 (4):655-703.
    The “New Natural Law” Theory (NNL) of Grisez, Finnis, Boyle, and their collaborators offers a distinctive account of intentional action, which underlies a moral theory that aims to justify many aspects of traditional morality and Catholic doctrine. In fact, we show that the NNL is committed to premises that entail the permissibility of many actions that are irreconcilable with traditional morality and Catholic doctrine, such as elective abortions. These consequences follow principally from the NNL’s planning theory of intention coupled with (...)
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  23. Hans Fredrick Oberdiek (1965). The Moral Relevance of Motives, Intentions, and Actions. Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison
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  24. Douglas Odegard (1988). Volition and Action. American Philosophical Quarterly 25 (2):141 - 151.
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  25. G. Van Oenen (2011). Interpassive Agency: Engaging Actor-Network-Theory's View on the Agency of Objects. Theory and Event 14 (2):1-19.
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  26. Erik S. Ohlander, Action , in Ṣūfism.
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  27. Christopher Olsen (1969). Knowledge of One's Own Intentional Actions. Philosophical Quarterly 19 (77):324-336.
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  28. Frank M. Oppenheim (1975). Agency and Urgency. New Scholasticism 49 (2):235-238.
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  29. Elisabeth Pacherie (2012). Action. In Keith Frankish & William Ramsey (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Science. Cambridge University Press 92--111.
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  30. Richard D. Parry (1974). The Agent's Knowledge of His Own Action. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 55 (1):44.
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  31. Tamas Pataki (2000). Freudian Wish-Fulfilment and Sub-Intentional Explanation. In M. Levine (ed.), The Analytic Freud. Routledge 49--84.
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  32. Colin Patrick (2012). "Review of" Life and Action". [REVIEW] Essays in Philosophy 13 (2):23.
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  33. Delroy Paulhus & Richard Christie (1981). Spheres of Control: An Interactionist Approach to Assessment of Perceived Control. In Herbert M. Lefcourt (ed.), Research with the Locus of Control Construct. Academic Press 1--161.
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  34. Leon Pearl (1977). Action Theory. International Studies in Philosophy 9:111-112.
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  35. David Pears (1975). The Appropiate Causation of Intentional Basic Actions. Critica 7 (20):39 - 72.
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  36. Ch Pereleman (1960). Theoretical Relations of Thought and Action. Philosophy Today 4 (2):138.
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  37. Björn Petersson (2000). Belief & Desire the Standard Model of Intentional Action : Critique and Defence.
    The scheme of concepts we employ in daily life to explain intentional behaviour form a belief-desire model , in which motivating states are sorted into two suitably broad categories. The BD model embeds a philosophy of action, i.e. a set of assumptions about the ontology of motivation with subsequent restrictions on psychologising and norms of practical reason. A comprehensive critique of those assumptions and implications is offered in this work, and various criticisms of the model are met. The model’s predictive (...)
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  38. Jean-luc Petit (1989). La Sémantique de L'Action. A.N.R.T. Université de Lille Iii.
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  39. Karl Pfeifer (1992). Carl Ginet, On Action Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 12 (3):196-199.
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  40. Karl Pfeifer (1992). Carl Ginet, On Action. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 12:196-199.
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  41. Karl Pfeifer (1991). Kathleen Lennon, Explaining Human Action. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 11:263-265.
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  42. Patrick Pharo & Louis Quéré (1990). Les Formes de L'Action. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  43. Bryony Pierce (2006). Is The Concept Of Rational Agency Coherent? Philosophical Writings 33 (3).
    The concept of rational agency commonly presupposes the freedom of the agent to act autonomously, for reasons of the agent’s own choosing. If we are rational agents, the normative nature of reason and the presupposition of autonomy appear to preclude a deterministic account of rational agency, in which actions would be reducible to events within a causally closed physical system. This paper will challenge the notion of rational agency as involving self-determination in the sense of freedom of action. My thesis (...)
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  44. Thomas Pink (1997). XIII—Reason and Agency. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 97 (3):263-280.
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  45. Guy Planty-Bonjour (1986). Les Implications Théologiques de « l'Action ». Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 176 (4):435 - 448.
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  46. Howard Platzman (1982). What is It Like to Be an Agent? Dissertation, City University of New York
    This thesis addresses a basic question in the philosophy of action: what distinguishes intentional from nonvoluntary action? Traditional discussion surrounding this question is largely a debate between those who propose some special state of or process in consciousness as an essential feature of intentional action , and those who deny this. I present a version of feeling theory that is responsive to certain problems with the view which its other contemporary proponents seem generally to ignore. ;Chapter I examines the feeling (...)
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  47. Pietroski Pm (1998). Actions, Adjuncts, and Agency. In Daniel N. Robinson (ed.), The Mind. Oxford University Press 107--425.
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  48. Edward Pols (1986). Moral Action. Review of Metaphysics 40 (2):399-402.
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  49. Daniel J. Povinelli (2001). On the Possibilities of Detecting Intentions Prior to Understanding Them. In Bertram Malle, L. J. Moses & Dare Baldwin (eds.), Intentions and Intentionality: Foundations of Social Cognition. MIT Press 225--248.
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  50. Betty Powell (1959). Uncharacteristic Actions. Mind 68 (272):492-509.
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