Automatic Actions: Challenging Causalism

Rationality Markets and Morals 2 (1):179-200 (2011)
Abstract
I argue that so-called automatic actions – routine performances that we successfully and effortlessly complete without thinking such as turning a door handle, downshifting to 4th gear, or lighting up a cigarette – pose a challenge to causalism, because they do not appear to be preceded by the psychological states which, according to the causal theory of action, are necessary for intentional action. I argue that causalism cannot prove that agents are simply unaware of the relevant psychological states when they act automatically, because these content-specific psychological states aren’t always necessary to make coherent rational sense of the agent’s behaviour. I then dispute other possible grounds for the attribution of these psychological states, such as agents’ own self-attributions. In the final section I introduce an alternative to causalism, building on Frankfurt’s concept of guidance.
Keywords automatic actions  automaticity  causalism  causal theory of action  intentional action  Davidson  agency
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Citations of this work BETA
Ezio Di Nucci (2013). Habits, Nudges, and Consent. American Journal of Bioethics 13 (6):27 - 29.
Ezio Di Nucci (2012). Priming Effects and Free Will. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (5):725-734.
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