Reason, action and the will: The fall and rise of causalism

When Donald Davidson published his influential article ‘Actions, Reasons and Causes’ [1963], many of his contemporaries were convinced that reasons for action could not be causes of anything, so that even an explanation such as ‘Gilbert knelt because he had decided to propose to Gertrude’ did not work by citing Gilbert’s decision as a cause of his kneeling. Davidson was mainly responsible for demolishing that consensus and reinstating causalism—the thesis that psychological or rationalizing explanations of human behaviour are a species of event-causal explanation—as the dominant view in the philosophy of action, so that it is now often regarded as an obvious truth.
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