Does Philosophy of Action Rest on a Mistake?

Metaphilosophy 32 (5):502-522 (2001)
Abstract
Philosophers of action tend to take for granted the concept of basic actions – actions that are done at will, or directly – as opposed to others that are performed in other ways. This concept does foundational work in action theory; many theorists, especially causalists, take part of their task to be showing that normal, complex actions necessarily stem from basic ones somehow. The case for the concept of basic actions is driven by a family of observations and a cluster of closely related anti-infinite regress arguments. I review this case in the work of Arthur Danto, Donald Davidson, and Jennifer Hornsby – three of the most important developers of the concept – and find it lacking. I conclude by sketching the possibility of non-foundationalist action theory.
Keywords philosophy of action  basic actions  Ryle
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