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Summary Identification theories hold that free acts are actions caused by states of the agent with which she identifies. Identification may be cognitive: an agent may be said to identify with a state if she has the right beliefs (or lacks the wrong beliefs) with regard to it. Alternatively, identification may be a matter of wanting that the state in question produce action. Identification theories are usually compatibilist theories, motivated by the thought that what matters for freedom is not whether one's mental states are caused by processes over which the agent, ultimately, lacks control, but whether the agent is satisfied with the states which cause their actions. Identification theories have been extremely influential as accounts of autonomy, as well as freedom.
Key works The major landmark in this terrain is undoubtedly Frankfurt 1971. In this influential article, Frankfurt argued that a free action is caused by a first-order desire which the agent wants to be their will. In later work, Frankfurt has developed and modified this view to avoid objections, and in the process proposed somewhat different accounts of identification; see Frankfurt 1988Watson 1975 develops a rival account of what identification consists in which has also been influential: for him, we identify with actions if they are in accordance with our values. Watson 1987 rejects this account as a necessary condition of free will. Bratman 2007 has developed an account of agency that builds on the insights of identification theories: for him, it is the mesh between our actions and our plans and intentions that is important.
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  1. Susan Leigh Anderson (1995). Being Morally Responsible for an Action Versus Acting Responsibly or Irresponsibly. Journal of Philosophical Research 20:451-462.
    In her article “Asymmetrical Freedom,” and more recently in her book Freedom Within Reason, Susan Wolf claims to have given us a new theory to account for when we can be held morally responsible for our actions. I believe that she has confused “being morally responsible for an action” with “acting responsibly or irresponsibly.” I will argue that Wolf has given us a nice analysis of the latter concepts, but not of the former one as she intended. I do not (...)
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  2. Nomy Arpaly & Timothy Schroeder (1999). Praise, Blame and the Whole Self. Philosophical Studies 93 (2):161-188.
    What is that makes an act subject to either praise or blame? The question has often been taken to depend entirely on the free will debate for an answer, since it is widely agreed that an agent’s act is subject to praise or blame only if it was freely willed, but moral theory, action theory, and moral psychology are at least equally relevant to it. In the last quarter-century, following the lead of Harry Frankfurt’s (1971) seminal article “Freedom of the (...)
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  3. Benjamin Bagley (2015). Loving Someone in Particular. Ethics 125 (2):477-507.
    People loved for their beauty and cheerfulness are not loved as irreplaceable, yet people loved for “what their souls are made of” are. Or so literary romance implies; leading philosophical accounts, however, deny the distinction, holding that reasons for love either do not exist or do not include the beloved’s distinguishing features. In this, I argue, they deny an essential species of love. To account for it while preserving the beloved’s irreplaceability, I defend a model of agency on which people (...)
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  4. Tomás Barrero (2015). Aserción, expresión y acción. Una lectura de J.L. Austin. Dianoia: Anuario de Filosofía 74 (LX):81-107.
    This paper offers a new interpretation of John Austin’s views both on assertion and on adverbs, as result of which an expressivist thesis concerning the semantics for action sentences is advanced. First, Austin’s analysis of assertion based on various, specific assertive forces and his remarks on adverbs are systematically connected in order to obtain assertive schemata for action sentences. Finally, those schemata are put to work as the expression of inferential commitments implicit in argumentative practices of different sorts (exculpatory, justificatory (...)
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  5. Paul Benson (2005). Authority and Voice in Autonomous Agency. In Anderson Joel & Christman John (eds.), Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism. Cambridge University Press 101-126.
    How can any of my actions genuinely be my own? How can they be more than just intentional performances, with whatever investment of my will that involves, but also belong to me in the special way that makes me autonomous in performing them? How, in other words, can any of my actions be my own in such a way that they arise from or manifest my capacities for self-governance? -/- The literature on autonomous agency employs a number of metaphors to (...)
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  6. Frithjof Bergmann (1977). On Being Free. University of Notre Dame Press.
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  7. Mark H. Bernstein (1983). Socialization and Autonomy. Mind 92 (January):120-123.
    A problem closely related to the perennial free will question is whether autonomy of persons can be reconciled with socialization. If this latter compatibilism can be established, It would have great bearing on the more general issue of freedom being reconcilable with determinism. In several recent articles robert young has tried to demonstrate the consistency of autonomy with socialization, But the author argues that he has failed to notice the depth and global nature of the socialization critic's position, And as (...)
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  8. Renée Bilodeau (2000). La philosohie de l'action. In Pascal Engel (ed.), Précis de philosophie analytique. P.U.F. 189-212.
    Introduction à quelques problèmes de philosophie de l'action: la nature de l'action, l'individuation de l'action, la théorie causale, les raisons et les causes, les chaînes causales déviantes, la notion d'intention, la "simple view", les raisonnements pratiques.
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  9. Thomas Boysen (2004). Death of a Compatibilistic Intuition. SATS: Northern European Journal of Philosophy 5 (2):92-104.
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  10. Michael Bratman (1999). Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency. Cambridge University Press.
    This collection of essays by one of the most prominent and internationally respected philosophers of action theory is concerned with deepening our understanding of the notion of intention. In Bratman's view, when we settle on a plan for action we are committing ourselves to future conduct in ways that help support important forms of coordination and organization both within the life of the agent and interpersonally. These essays enrich that account of commitment involved in intending, and explore its implications for (...)
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  11. Michael E. Bratman (2003). A Desire of One's Own. Journal of Philosophy 100 (5):221-42.
    You can sometimes have and be moved by desires which you in some sense disown. The problem is whether we can make sense of these ideas of---as I will say---ownership and rejection of a desire, without appeal to a little person in the head who is looking on at the workings of her desires and giving the nod to some but not to others. Frankfurt's proposed solution to this problem, sketched in his 1971 article, has come to be called the (...)
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  12. Sarah Buss (2008). Personal Autonomy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    To be autonomous is to be a law to oneself; autonomous agents are self-governing agents. Most of us want to be autonomous because we want to be accountable for what we do, and because it seems that if we are not the ones calling the shots, then we cannot be accountable. More importantly, perhaps, the value of autonomy is tied to the value of self-integration. We don't want to be alien to, or at war with, ourselves; and it seems that (...)
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  13. Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.) (2002). Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes From Harry Frankfurt. MIT Press, Bradford Books.
    The original essays in this book address Harry Frankfurt's influential writing on personal identity, love, value, moral responsibility, and the freedom and ...
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  14. Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.) (2002). Contours of Agency: Essays for Harry Frankfurt. MIT Press.
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  15. David Carr (1989). Responsibility, Character and the Emotions: New Essays in Moral Psychology. [REVIEW] Philosophical Books 30 (4):229-232.
  16. Will Cartwright (2006). Responsibility: A Puzzle, Two Theories, and Bad Background. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 13 (2):167-176.
    This essay seeks to illuminate both the theory and practice of holding people responsible. It investi- gates two leading accounts of responsibility, examining some of their implications and certain difficulties that they face. It tests the two accounts by applying them to an illustrative example, which demonstrates how the questions that are decisive in judging an agent’s responsibility are notably different on the two accounts. Although both views are variously illuminating, they each face difficulties and arguably depend on, or foster, (...)
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  17. Gerald B. Dworkin (1970). Acting Freely. Noûs 4 (November):367-83.
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  18. John Martin Fischer (ed.) (2005). Free Will: Critical Concepts in Philosophy. Routledge.
    Over the last three decades there has been a tremendous amount of philosophical work in the Anglo-American tradition on the cluster of topics pertaining to Free Will. Of course, this work has in many instances built on and extended the historical treatments of this great area of philosophical interest. The issues range from fairly abstract philosophical questions about the logic of arguments about human freedom (and its relationship to prior predictability of our choices and actions, or God's foreknowledge, or causal (...)
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  19. John Martin Fischer & Mark Ravizza (eds.) (1993). Perspectives on Moral Responsibility. Cornell University Press.
    Explores aspects of responsibility, including moral accountability; hierarchy, rationality, and the real self; and ethical responsibility and alternative ...
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  20. Harry Frankfurt (2002). Reply to Michael E. Bratman. In Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.), Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes From Harry Frankfurt. MIT Press, Bradford Books 85--90.
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  21. Harry Frankfurt (1999). Responses. Journal of Ethics 3 (4):369-374.
    This essay consists in my replies to Professors John Martin Fischer, Patricia Greenspan, Eleonore Stump, Peter van Inwagen and Gary Watson regarding various aspects of my analysis of moral responsibility.
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  22. Harry Frankfurt (1987). Identification and Wholeheartedness. In Ferdinand David Schoeman (ed.), Responsiblity, Character, and the Emotions: New Essays in Moral Psychology. Cambridge University Press
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  23. Harry G. Frankfurt (1971). Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person. Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
    It is my view that one essential difference between persons and other creatures is to be found in the structure of a person's will. Besides wanting and choosing and being moved to do this or that, men may also want to have certain desires and motives. They are capable of wanting to be different, in their preferences and purposes, from what they are. Many animals appear to have the capacity for what I shall call "first-order desires" or "desires of the (...)
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  24. Christopher Evan Franklin (forthcoming). Bratman on Identity Over Time and Identification at a Time. Philosophical Explorations:1-14.
    According to reductionists about agency, an agent’s bringing something about is reducible to states and events involving the agent bringing something about. Many have worried that reductionism cannot accommodate robust forms of agency, such as self-determination. One common reductionist answer to this worry contends that self-determining agents are identified with certain states and events, and so these states and events causing a decision counts as the agent’s self-determining the decision. In this paper, I discuss Michael Bratman’s well-known identification reductionist theory (...)
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  25. Christopher Evan Franklin (2016). If Anyone Should Be an Agent-Causalist, Then Everyone Should Be an Agent-Causalist. Mind 125 (500):1101-1131.
    Nearly all defences of the agent-causal theory of free will portray the theory as a distinctively libertarian one — a theory that only libertarians have reason to accept. According to what I call ‘the standard argument for the agent-causal theory of free will’, the reason to embrace agent-causal libertarianism is that libertarians can solve the problem of enhanced control only if they furnish agents with the agent-causal power. In this way it is assumed that there is only reason to accept (...)
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  26. Christopher Evan Franklin (2015). Self-Determination, Self-Transformation, and the Case of Jean Valjean: A Problem for Velleman. Philosophical Studies 172 (10):2591-2598.
    According to reductionists about agency, an agent’s bringing something about is reducible to states and events involving the agent bringing something about. Many have worried that reductionism cannot accommodate robust forms of agency, such as self-determination. One common reductionist answer to this worry contends that self-determining agents are identified with certain states and events, and so these states and events causing a decision counts as the agent’s self-determining the decision. In this paper I discuss J. David Velleman’s identification reductionist theory, (...)
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  27. Christopher Evan Franklin (2014). Event-Causal Libertarianism, Functional Reduction, and the Disappearing Agent Argument. Philosophical Studies 170 (3):413-432.
    Event-causal libertarians maintain that an agent’s freely bringing about a choice is reducible to states and events involving him bringing about the choice. Agent-causal libertarians demur, arguing that free will requires that the agent be irreducibly causally involved. Derk Pereboom and Meghan Griffith have defended agent-causal libertarianism on this score, arguing that since on event-causal libertarianism an agent’s contribution to his choice is exhausted by the causal role of states and events involving him, and since these states and events leave (...)
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  28. Michael Garnett (2015). Agency and Inner Freedom. Noûs 50 (1).
    This paper concerns the relationship between two questions. The first is a question about inner freedom: What is it to be rendered unfree, not by external obstacles, but by aspects of oneself? The second is a question about agency: What is it to fail at being a thing that genuinely acts, and instead to be a thing that is merely acted upon, passive in relation to its own behaviour? It is widely believed that answers to the first question must rest (...)
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  29. Jason Gray (2012). Dueling Interveners: A Challenge to Frankfurt's Conception of Free Will and Acting Freely. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 1 (1):56-61.
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  30. P. S. Greenspan (1999). Impulse and Self-Reflection: Frankfurtian Responsibility Versus Free Will. [REVIEW] Journal of Ethics 3 (4):325-341.
    Harry Frankfurt''s early work makes an important distinction between moral responsibility and free will. Frankfurt begins by focusing on the notion of responsibility, as supplying counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities; he then turns to an apparently independent account of free will, in terms of his well-known hierarchy of desires. But the two notions seem to reestablish contact in Frankfurt''s later discussion of issues and cases. The present article sets up a putative Frankfurtian account of moral responsibility that involves (...)
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  31. Sarah E. Hamady (2002). Agency, Authenticity and Happiness. Dissertation, Columbia University
    In this thesis, I present a theory of happiness that entails humans' optimally utilizing two of their higher-order rational faculties. The first rational faculty that I claim humans must possess in order to be 'happy' is that of 'Agency.' A person possesses Agency when she is able to translate her avowed second-order desires into action. In other words, this person is capable of acting in accordance with those first-order desires that she has decided she wants to act upon. Such a (...)
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  32. Christopher S. Hill (1984). Watsonian Freedom and the Freedom of the Will. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (September):294-98.
  33. Alec Hinshelwood (2013). Winner of the Philosophical Explorations Essay Prize 2013: The Relations Between Agency, Identification, and Alienation. Philosophical Explorations 16 (3):243 - 258.
    This paper examines the relations between, on the one hand, accounts of the distinction between an agent's identifying with, as opposed to feeling alienated from, their attitudes; and on the other, metaphysical accounts of action. It claims that a commitment to an event-causal conception of agency, which would analyse agency in terms of the causal potency of psychological states and events, appears to render mandatory a particular style of account of identification and alienation ? namely, the hierarchical model offered by (...)
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  34. Jasper Hopkins, Freedom of the Will : Parallels Between Frankfurt and Augustine.
    At first glance it seems strange to compare the views of two philosophers from such different contexts as are Harry G. Frankfurt1 and Aurelius Augustinus. After all, Frankfurt makes virtually no use of Augustine, virtually no mention of his philosophical doctrines—whether on free will or anything else.2 And yet, the two have more to do with each other than initially meets the eye. For in their own ways both of them sketch a respective theory of freedom that is similarly insightful; (...)
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  35. Waheed Hussain (2010). Autonomy, Frankfurt, and the Nature of Reflective Endorsement. Journal of Value Inquiry 44 (1):61-79.
  36. Matt King & Peter Carruthers (2012). Moral Responsibility and Consciousness. Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (2):200-228.
    Our aim in this paper is to raise a question about the relationship between theories of responsibility, on the one hand, and a commitment to conscious attitudes, on the other. Our question has rarely been raised previously. Among those who believe in the reality of human freedom, compatibilists have traditionally devoted their energies to providing an account that can avoid any commitment to the falsity of determinism while successfully accommodating a range of intuitive examples. Libertarians, in contrast, have aimed to (...)
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  37. Asger Kirkeby-Hinrup (2014). How to Get Free Will From Positive Reinforcement. SATS 15 (1):20-38.
    I will start by noting that Harry Frankfurt’s concept of wholeheartedness is in conflict with the intuition that free will should be efficacious in general, rather than pertain only to a small subset of decisions. To replace wholeheartedness I introduce a heuristic account for deliberation and decisions. I will show that introspective activity can lead to the individual having two types ‘introspective revelations’. By the onset of the introspective revelations a self-perpetuating loop is initiated. The loop consists of two elements (...)
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  38. Christine M. Korsgaard (2009). Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity. Oxford University Press.
    Agency and identity -- Necessitation -- Acts and actions -- Aristotle and Kant -- Agency and practical identity -- The metaphysics of normativity -- Constitutive standards -- The constitution of life -- In defense of teleology -- The paradox of self-constitution -- Formal and substantive principles of reason -- Formal versus substantive -- Testing versus weighing -- Maximizing and prudence -- Practical reason and the unity of the will -- The empiricist account of normativity -- The rationalist account of normativity (...)
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  39. Mark Leon (2001). The Willing Addict: Actor or (Helpless) Bystander? Philosophia 28 (1-4):437-443.
  40. Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen (2003). Identification and Responsibility. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 6 (4):349-376.
    Real-self accounts of moral responsibility distinguish between various types of motivational elements. They claim that an agent is responsible for acts suitably related to elements that constitute the agent's real self. While such accounts have certain advantages from a compatibilist perspective, they are problematic in various ways. First, in it, authority and authenticity conceptions of the real self are often inadequately distinguished. Both of these conceptions inform discourse on identification, but only the former is relevant to moral responsibility. Second, authority (...)
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  41. Dennis Loughrey (1998). Second-Order Desire Accounts of Autonomy. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 6 (2):211 – 229.
    The autonomous person is one who has, in some sense, mastery over their desires. The prevailing way to understand such personal autonomy is in terms of a hierarchy of desires. For Harry Frankfurt, persons not only have first-order desires, but possess the additional capacity to form second-order desires. Second-order desires are formed through reflection on first-order desires and are thus expressive of the rational capacity which is characteristic of persons. Frankfurt's account of freedom of the will is founded on his (...)
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  42. Kevin Magill (1997). Freedom and Experience: Self-Determination Without Illusions. St. Martin's Press/Palgrave Macmillan.
    Most of us take it for granted that we are free agents: that we can sometimes act so as to shape our own lives and those of others, that we have choices about how to do so and that we are responsible for what we do. But are we really justified in believing this? For centuries philosophers have argued about whether free will and moral responsibility are compatible with determinism or natural causation, and they seem no closer to agreeing about (...)
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  43. Patricia Marino (2011). Ambivalence, Valuational Inconsistency, and the Divided Self. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (1):41-71.
    Is there anything irrational, or self-undermining, about having "inconsistent" attitudes of caring or valuing? In this paper, I argue that, contra suggestions of Harry Frankfurt and Charles Taylor, the answer is "No." Here I focus on "valuations," which are endorsed desires or attitudes. The proper characterization of what I call "valuational inconsistency" I claim, involves not logical form (valuing A and not-A), but rather the co-possibility of what is valued; valuations are inconsistent when there is no possible world in which (...)
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  44. A. R. Mele (2003). Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes From Harry Frankfurt. [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2):292 – 295.
    Book Information Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes from Harry Frankfurt. Edited by Sarah Buss and Lee Overton. MIT Press. Cambridge MA. 2002. Pp. 381. US$45.
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  45. Denise Meyerson (1994). When Are My Actions Due to Me? Analysis 54 (3):171 - 174.
  46. Christian Miller (2007). The Policy-Based Approach to Identification. Philosophical Psychology 20 (1):105 – 125.
    In a number of recent papers, Michael Bratman has defended a policy-based theory of identification which represents the most sophisticated and compelling development of a broadly hierarchical approach to the problems about identification which Harry Frankfurt drew our attention to over thirty years ago. Here I first summarize the bare essentials of Bratman's view, and then raise doubts about both its necessity and sufficiency. Finally I consider his objections to rival value-based models, and find those objections to be less compelling (...)
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  47. Christian Miller (2004). Agency and Moral Realism. Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
    Much of the literature in contemporary analytic metaethics has grown rather stale – the range of possible positions seems to have been exhaustively delineated, and most of the important arguments on all sides have been clearly articulated and evaluated. In order to advance discussion in this area, I examine more fundamental issues about the nature of agency. In my view, the heart of what it is to exhibit intentional agency in the world is to identify with the relevant components of (...)
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  48. Timothy O'Connor & Constantine Sandis (eds.) (2010). A Companion to the Philosophy of Action. Wiley-Blackwell.
    _A Companion to the Philosophy of Action_ offers a comprehensive overview of the issues and problems central to the philosophy of action. The first volume to survey the entire field of philosophy of action Brings together specially commissioned chapters from international experts Discusses a range of ideas and doctrines, including rationality, free will and determinism, virtuous action, criminal responsibility, Attribution Theory, and rational agency in evolutionary perspective Individual chapters also cover prominent historic figures from Plato to Ricoeur Can be approached (...)
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  49. Emer O'Hagan (2001). Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency Michael Bratman Cambridge Studies in Philosophy New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999, Xiii + 288 Pp., $59.95, $18.95 Paper. [REVIEW] Dialogue 40 (02):393-.
  50. David-Hillel Ruben (2015). The Physical Action Theory of Trying. Methode 4 (6).
    Metaphysically speaking, just what is trying? There appear to be two options: to place it on the side of the mind or on the side of the world. Volitionists, who think that to try is to engage in a mental act, perhaps identical to willing and perhaps not, take the mind-side option. The second, or world-side option identifies trying to do something with one of the more basic actions by which one tries to do that thing. The trying is then (...)
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