David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Lucy O'Brien & Matthew Soteriou (eds.), Mental Actions. Oxford University Press 72 (2009)
There is a problem with a very common theory of the nature of action. The problem stems from the fact that causation by practical reasons may be a necessary condition for being an intentional action, but it can’t be a sufficient condition. After all, desires and intentions are caused by practical reasons that rationalize them, but they’re clearly not actions. Even if all actions are events or changes and desires and intentions aren’t, the acquistion of a desire or an intention is an event, but it isn’t always an action. If we can’t understand the nature of action in terms of causation by practical reasons, how should we understand it? The problem only arises if you believe that causation by practical reasons is not sufficient. Maybe the kinds of reasons that rationalize actions are different from the kinds of reasons that rationalize desires and intentions. It’s natural to suppose that reasons for A-ing have to be about A-ing. If the mental state that causes you to turn on the light counts as a reason for turning on the light, then the notion of turning on the light has to figure in the content of the cause. You might believe that turning on the light is a means to an end. Or you might just want to turn on the light. If reasons for A-ing are always about A-ing, but reasons for desiring or intending are only about the objects of desire or intention, if they’re first-order rather than secondorder, then maybe the kinds of reasons that rationalize actions are different from the kinds of..
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