Youth is a historical construction and an answer to a specific challenge of individualisation in biography. And, as a historical and social construction, youth has to be learned. This article focuses on youth development from an action or activity theory perspective and as a learning process. It demonstrates how different youth problems and forms of youth differentiation follow forms of youth learning. Moreover, it shows how late modern development creates the demand for a new non-formal learning perspective to (...) secure the development of new forms of competence. Based on Danish research concerning peer learning as a non-formal learning context, some perspectives of peer-learning competence are discussed. (shrink)
Realists about practical reasons agree that judgments regarding reasons are beliefs. They disagree, however, over the question of how such beliefs motivate rational action. Some adopt a Humean conception of motivation, according to which beliefs about reasons must combine with independently existing desires in order to motivate rational action; others adopt an anti-Humean view, according to which beliefs can motivate rational action in their own right, either directly or by giving rise to a new desire that in (...) turn motivates the action. I argue that the realist who adopts a Humean model for explaining rational action will have a difficult time giving a plausible account of the role that desire plays in this explanation. I explore four interpretations of this role and argue that none allows a Humean theory to explain rational action as convincingly as an anti-Humean theory does. The first two models, in different ways, make acting on a reason impossible. The third allows this possibility, but only by positing a reason-sensitive desire that itself demands an explanation. The fourth avoids this explanatory challenge only by retreating to an empty form of the Humean view. In contrast, an anti-Humean theory can provide an intuitively plausible explanation of rational action. I conclude that the realist about reasons should adopt an anti-Humean theory to explain rational action. (shrink)
Volitionalism is a theory of action motivated by certain shortcomings in the standard causal theory of action. However, volitionalism is vulnerable to the objection that it distorts the phenomenology of embodied agency. Arguments for volitionalism typically proceed by attempting to establish three claims: (1) that whenever an agent acts, she tries or wills to act, (2) that it is possible for volitions to occur even in the absence of bodily movement, and (3) that in cases of (...) successful bodily actions the relation between volition and bodily movement is causal. I defend an argument for the second of these claims from an objection by Thor Grünbaum, but I show that several volitionalist arguments for the third are not compelling. I then argue that the dual aspect theory of action provides a better account of the relationship between an agent’s volition and the bodily movements she makes when she acts, insofar as it has the same advantages over the standard story as volitionalism without being open to the phenomenological objection. I also defend the dual aspect theory from an objection by A.D. Smith. Finally, I show why the dual aspect theory of action is a better alternative to volitionalism than the theory of action recently put forward by Adrian Haddock. In order to avoid the phenomenological objection Haddock suggests a disjunctive account of bodily movements. While disjunctivism should be taken seriously in the philosophy of action, on the dual aspect theory it is the category of volition, rather than bodily movement, that should receive a disjunctive analysis. (shrink)
Most contemporary philosophers of action accept Aristotle’s view that actions involve movements generated by an internal cause. This is reflected in the wide support enjoyed by the Causal Theory of Action (CTA), according to which actions are bodily movements caused by mental states. Some critics argue that CTA suffers from the Problem of Disappearing Agents (PDA), the complaint that CTA excludes agents because it reduces them to mere passive arenas in which certain events and processes take place. (...) Extant treatments of PDA, most notably those of Michael Bratman and David Velleman, interpret the problem as a challenge to CTA’s ability to capture the role of rational capacities like deliberation and reflection in the etiology of human action. I argue that PDA admits of another interpretation, one that arises when we appreciate that the exercise of higher rational capacities in action presupposes possession of a prior lower-level capacity for basic self-movement – the power to initiate and control one’s bodily behavior. Bolstering CTA so that it accommodates richer exercises of practical thought – as Bratman and Velleman do – will not resolve PDA unless CTA already captures this basic agential power. Adequately responding to PDA, therefore, requires answering a question unaddressed by current responses: How do bodily movements caused by sub-agential items like mental states count as movements actively performed by the whole agent? I argue that CTA can answer this question by adopting a normative account of the nature of self-moving agents. On this view, self-moving agents are teleologically constituted, meaning (1) their nature and proper function derives from their characteristic ends and aims, and (2) the nature and proper function of their parts depend on these ends and aims. Basic self-movement consists of movements caused by a sub-agential part whose own proper function is to generate behavior that constitutes or contributes to the pursuit of the agent’s overall proper function. After showing how this picture applies to artifactual and collective agents (i.e., robots and teams), I extend the account to organic agents (human beings) by sketching a broadly Aristotelian picture of the nature of living things. (shrink)
Abstract This paper sketches a Levinasian theory of action. It has often been pointed out that Levinas' ethics are incapable of providing principles of adjudication for guiding actions. However, a much more profound problem affects Levinas' metaphysical ethics and negates the possibility of adjudication and that is a patent lack of freedom from the yoke of the ethical. If ?ethics is primordial? indeed, then no act can be unethical in that there is no alternative possibility to the acceptance (...) and performance of the law. In this paper, I will argue that it is from the totalization of the acceptance and performance of law ?implicit in the subject's action? that alternative possibilities become visible. This is to say, it is through totalization that the subject demarcates the locus for the emergence of principles, which can permit adjudication among different acts without negating the radical primacy of ethics, which is probably Levinas? greatest contribution to the field. (shrink)
Software piracy, the illegal and unauthorized duplication, sale, or distribution of software, is a widespread and costly phenomenon. According to Business Software Alliance (2008), over 41% of the PC software packages installed worldwide were unauthorized copies. Software piracy behavior has been investigated for more than 30 years. However, after a review of the relevant literature, there appears to be two voids in this literature: a lack of studies in non-Western countries and a scarcity of process studies. This study contributes to (...) literature by developing a software piracy model to better understand the decision-making process that underlies this unethical behavior. The model was tested using data collected from a sample of 323 undergraduate business students. Consistent with the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), attitudes toward software piracy and subjective norms were significant predictors of intention to pirate software. Also, the results suggested that ethical ideology, public self-consciousness, and low self-control moderated the effect of these variables on intention to pirate software. The results have important practical implications for the software industry and governments hoping to curtail software piracy. Limitations of the study and recommendations for future studies are discussed as well. (shrink)
Manifest Activity presents and critically examines the model of human power, the will, our capacities for purposeful conduct, and the place of our agency in the natural world of one of the most important and traditionally under-appreciated philosophers of the 18th century: Thomas Reid. For Reid, contrary to the view of many of his predecessors, it is simply manifest that we are active with respect to our behaviours; it is manifest, he thinks, that our actions are not merely remote products (...) of forces that lie outside of our control. Reid holds, instead, that actions are all and only those events that spring from active power and he produces insightful and imaginative arguments for the claim that only a creature with a mind is capable of having active power. He believes that only human beings, and creatures 'above us', are capable of directing events towards ends, of endowing them with purpose or direction, the distinctive feature of action. However, he also holds that all events, and not merely human actions, are products of active power, power possessed either by human beings or by God. This collection of theses leads Reid to the view that human behaviour and the progress of nature are both essentially teleological. Patterns in nature are the products of laws of which God is the author; patterns in human conduct are the products of character and the laws that individuals set for themselves. Manifest Activity examines Reid's arguments for this view and the view's implications for the nature of character, motivation and the special kind of causation involved in the production of human behavior. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to give a new argument for naturalized actiontheory. The sketch of the argument is the following: the immediate mental antecedents of actions, that is, the mental states that makes actions actions, are not normally accessible to introspection. But then we have no other option but to turn to the empirical sciences if we want to characterize and analyze them.
A serious attempt to integrate ethics in management was done by Professor Juan Antonio Pérez López (1934–1996). His thought represents a break with current scholarly thinking on these subjects. The purpose of this article is to explain some of the most significant aspects of his theories, relating basically to his recourse to ethics as what defines the characteristic behavior of human beings, considered as individuals and as members of organizations. Pérez López used the anthropological conception underlying the ethics of Aristotle (...) and Thomas Aquinas to build a solid base for that ethics, starting from the decision-making process. He then used that ethical base to point to the kind of actiontheory and organization theory that could most effectively assist the human development of people and organizations. (shrink)
Introduction : what's the problem? -- The problem may lurk in Aristotle's ethics -- Aristotle's akratic : foreshadowing a solution -- A negligent omission at the root of all sinfulness : Anselm and the Devil -- Negligent vs. non-negligent : a Thomistic distinction directing us toward a solution -- Can I have your divided attention? : Scotus, indistinct intellections, and type-1 negligent omissions almost solved -- I can't get you out of my mind : Scotus, lingering indistinct intellections, and type-2 (...) negligent omissions -- Scotus's affection-ate corrective : a possible final solution to a type-2 variant -- Neglected treatises help solve negligence : the actiontheory of Francisco Suarez -- An answer that cannot be neglected : the solution -- Appendix A : translation of Nicomachean ethics 1146b31-1147b19. (shrink)
The central propositional attitudes of belief, desire, and meaning are interdependent; it is therefore fruitless to analyse one or two of them in terms of the others. A method is outlined in this paper that yields a theory for interpreting speech, a measure of degree of belief, and a measure of desirability. The method combines in a novel way features of Bayesean decision theory, and a Quinean approach to radical interpretation.
Terrorism is an extreme, violent response to a failed political process engaging political regimes and ethnic and ideological adversaries over fundamental governance issues. Applying the theory of collective action, the author explains the dynamic of violence escalation and persistence. Recent Islamist terrorism stems from the conviction that a theocracy is the only answer to the multiple problems of Middle Eastern and Muslim countries. Checks on terrorism result both from external social control and from the internal contradictions of theocratic (...) states. (shrink)
Philosophical interest in intentional action has flourished in recent decades. Typically, action theorists propose necessary and sufficient conditions for a movement's being an action, conditions derived from a conceptual analysis of folk psychological action ascriptions. However, several key doctrinal and methodological features of contemporary actiontheory are troubling, in particular (i) the insistence that folk psychological kinds like beliefs and desires have neurophysiological correlates, (ii) the assumption that the concept of action is "classical" (...) in structure (making it amenable to definition in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions for its proper application), and (iii) the assumption that deferring to intuitions about the application of the concept of action amidst the context of fantastical thought experiments furnishes an effective method for judging the adequacy of proposed analyses. After consideration of these problems it is argued that actiontheory needs to be reoriented in a more naturalistic direction, the methods and aims of which are continuous with those of the empirical sciences. The paper concludes with a sketch (and defense) of the methodological foundations of a naturalistic approach to intentional action. (shrink)
Rationality and Compulsion presents a unique examination of mental illness - derived from philosophical actiontheory. Delusion is common to many mental disorders, resulting in actions that, though perhaps rational to the individual, might seem entirely inappropriate or harmful to others. So what is it that causes these actions, and why do they continue? The theory expounded in this book shows how the key to this problem might be compulsion. -/- This book presents a new analysis of (...) the notion of compulsion - developed from actiontheory. The books starts with an introduction to actiontheory (for the benefit of non-philosophers). It then shows how insights from actiontheory can help us better understand mental illness, before developing an analysis of compulsion that emphasizes the element of unavoidability. The book argues that what is fundamentally disturbing to the person suffering from delusion is not so much the fact that the disorder tends to lead to irrational actions but rather the fact that he or she is unable to avoid performing these actions. The individual is or feels compelled to act in the way he or she does. The book contains some concrete illustrations of this idea as applied to several psychiatric diagnoses, such as paranoia, phobia, and psychopathy. -/- Rationality and Compulsion is a highly original new work from a leading figure in the philosophy and psychiatry movement. It will advance our understanding of mental illness, and be valuable for psychiatrists, psychologists, as well as philosophers. (shrink)
The article tries to demonstrate how the tools and perspectives of actiontheory may be used in philosophy of medicine and medical ethics. In the first part, some concepts and principles of actiontheory are reconstructed and used to sketch a view of medicine as a science of actions. The second part is a contribution to the discussion on medical ethics in the same issue of this journal and consists in a detailed analysis of the main (...) arguments and critical remarks from the point of view of actiontheory. (shrink)
The overwhelming majority of action theories have relied on a Humean model of causality and of explanation; even those theories that explicitly reject aspects of that model uncritically adopt others. The atomistic presuppositions embodied in the model are unable to account for either the dynamic and fabric-like nature of action or the features of control and meaning present therein. It is these atomistic presuppositions that give rise to the “Gettier-like vexations” that are common counterexamples in action (...) class='Hi'>theory. The Humean requirement that cause and effect be only contingently connected and generalizable into a covering law is also discussed with respect to the explanation of action.Representatives of the three major approaches to the problem of action: causal (including intentional, volitional, as well as agent causation and reasons-as-causes theories), behaviorist, so-called “contextual”, and teleological theories are examined. (shrink)
Recent work in the theory of action by analytical philosophers has focused on explaining actions by citing the agent's motivating reason(s). But this ignores a pattern of explanation typical in the social sciences, i.e. situating the agent in a reference group whose members typically manifest that behavior. In some cases the behavior of such groups can itself be shown to be the product of social forces. Two extended examples of this explanatory pattern are studied. In each case the (...) motivating reasons of the agents concerned can scarcely be understood apart from reference to the groups of which the agents are members and the social forces which work on those groups. However, attention to the agent's own reasons for action remains important, in part because of actiontheory's critical potential to help liberate people from arbitrary, hypostasized social forces. (shrink)
The problem of ‘wayward causal chains’ threatens any causal analysis of the concept of intentional human action. For such chains show that the mere causation of an action by the right sort of belief and/or desire does not make the action intentional, i.e. one done in order to attain the object of desire. Now if the ‘because’ in ‘wayward’ action-explanations is straightforwardly causal, that might be argued to indicate by contrast that the different ‘because’ of reasons-explanations (...) (which both explain and justify) is non-causal. Myles Brand, in Intending and Acting (1984), resists this conclusion, but argues that waywardness shows that philosophers must ‘naturalize’ actiontheory by drawing on contemporary work in cognitive science and artificial intelligence. I argue that this is a misconceived response to the problem of waywardness: in Brand’s work actiontheory itself has gone astray, unsure which way to tum next. (shrink)
A comparison of disjunctive theories of action and perception. The development of a theory of action that warrants the name, a disjunctive theory. On this theory, there is an exclusive disjunction: either an action or an event (in one sense). It follows that in that sense basic actions do not have events intrinsic to them.
In these essays, Hugh J. McCann develops a unified perspective on human action. Written over a period of twenty-five years, the essays provide a comprehensive survey of the major topics in contemporary actiontheory. In four sections, the book addresses the ontology of action; the foundations of action; intention, will, and freedom; and practical rationality. McCann works out a compromise between competing perspectives on the individuation of action; explores the foundations of action and (...) defends a volitional theory; argues for a libertarian view of both the formation and the execution of intention; and considers the question of consistency in rational intentions, as well as the relationship between practical and theoretical reasoning. -/- Among the original features of McCann's work are his defense of both fine- and coarse-grained actions and his arguments for a noncausal theory of the relation between intention and action. He also suggests that intentions need not be consistent, either with each other or with beliefs about success. And he contends that intention formation is an intrinsically ratiocinative procedure, distinct from reasoning about what action would be best. (shrink)
The major claims of this dissertation are that there is a discrete mode of action that we can identify as spontaneity, that spontaneity in this sense is fundamentally based on affectivity, and that it is most accurately described as aesthetic spontaneity. Aesthetic spontaneity is a mode of action overlooked in Western philosophy but prized and cultivated in Far Eastern thought and lately described in detail by psychologists. The qualifier "aesthetic" is added to "spontaneity" to distinguish it from the (...) spontaneity often referred to in Western metaphysics, particularly in reference to free will. -/- In contemporary philosophy, action has most often been analyzed in relation to intention in an attempt to uncover its factors of incipience, with relatively little attention given to modes of action. This dissertation will address such issues as intention and free will but in a peripheral way as they pertain to particular historical topics under discussion. The focus instead will be on understanding the modality of spontaneity. -/- The earliest extensive account of aesthetic spontaneity is found in the early Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, roughly contemporaneous with Plato. In order to understand Zhuangzi's account, however, on must first confront two outstanding issues in his work, both of which bear on his understanding of affectivity. Zhuangzi's terminology can often be opaque, and one of his most notoriously difficult terms is translated by A. C. Graham as "essential" and by Victor Mair as "emotion." The term in Chinese is qing 情, which in later Chinese thought unequivocally bears the meaning of emotion but at this early date means something more akin to an environmental affectivity. In Chapter 1, I delineate this meaning in some detail by looking at the uses of qing in a range of early Chinese works, with the aim of demonstrating definitively that the term does, contra Graham, have affective connotations and that they are essential to understanding Zhuangzi's notion of aesthetic spontaneity. On the whole, Zhuangzi's attitude toward affectivity appears ambiguous, which is the second issue I approach. On the one hand, he advocates an open acceptance, even an active fascination, with all natural transformations, including those of an individual's body, but on the other hand, he appears to suggest that affective transformations should be dampened or overcome. In order to speak authoritatively about Zhuangzi's notion of affectivity, this apparent contradiction requires elucidation. -/- In the second chapter, I begin a fuller exploration of affectivity, beginning with a neglected side of Plato. First, drawing on the work of Suzanne Langer, Alfred North Whitehead, and Robert Solomon, I expand the notion of affectivity to include all cognitive activity in an attempt to reintegrate the Platonic body and mind. At first glance, this may appear to be an impossible task, but I find a significant amount of evidence in works other than the Republic (the work usually chosen for examination of his psychology) to support this claim, and by delineating a notion of aesthetic affectivity going back to the original meaning of aesthetics in Baumgarten that includes all sensibilities of the human being, I am able to reconstruct a notion of an integrated self in Plato that contradicts Charles Taylor's divided Platonic self. After coming to a physiological understanding of aesthetic affectivity in Plato, I turn to Aristotle for an understanding of the need for cultivated aesthetic affectivity. While the integrated body and mind is receiving quite a bit of attention in contemporary philosophy, the notion of self-cultivation is not. After reviewing the evidence for such a need in Aristotle, I turn to Richard Schusterman's pragmatic aesthetics to demonstrate how the notion of self-cultivation can still contribute to a robust contemporary philosophical anthropology, and this understanding will contribute to the notion of cultivating aesthetic spontaneity in Chapter 5. -/- In Chapter 3, I undertake a nuanced definition of "spontaneity" by going back to Zhuangzi. I analyze a significant number of passages of Zhuangzi that center on descriptions of spontaneous activity and distill out aspects that may serve as a heuristic definition of "spontaneity", namely, holistic fluency. I identify wholeness as entailing processes of collection (calm focus) and shedding (of distractions, consideration of rewards, discursive knowledge, selfishness, the external form of an object, etc.). Fluency involves responsiveness and ease and is derivative of wholeness. The purpose of delineating a definition of spontaneity is to be able to work with it as a useful philosophical concept, something that has not been possible up to now. In this chapter, I engage the work of Angus Graham, who has done the most with the notion of spontaneity, and of Hans Georg Gadamer, comparing his work on ease with a Zhuangzian notion. After defining spontaneity, I canvass the history of Western philosophy in an attempt to find terms of our tradition that may be useful in incorporating a Zhuangzian notion of spontaneity into contemporary philosophy. There is also the need to clear the air of other uses of the term "spontaneity" that could create confusion. I begin with notions of automaton, physis, and hexis in Aristotle, move on to Chryssipus and Epicurus, then because talk of spontaneity is dominated by the free will vs. determinism debate for the next 1,500 or more years, I skip to Rousseau. With Rousseau, and later Mill, I demonstrate how an early paradox of spontaneity persists, suggesting that this paradox rests on certain metaphysical assumptions and how one cannot speak of Zhuangzian spontaneity under those assumptions. I also entertain Kant and McDowell's notions of cognitive spontaneity and a related notion in Sartre. Schiller's and Gadamer's notions of play are also considered. Most important in all these considerations, perhaps, is grasping the contemporary, scientific understanding of emergent order. By understanding spontaneity in thoroughly naturalistic terms and by clearing the air of the roadblock of free-will, I pave the way for a viable theoretic understanding of aesthetic spontaneity. -/- Unlike popular notions of spontaneity, Daoist spontaneity involves more than impulsiveness. In Chapter 4, I explain that the aesthetic of spontaneity relies on a notion of experience that arises out of complex interaction with our environment that is conceptualized by Daoists as the chaos of the inchoate, a primal disorder that is the seat of potent creativity. Through the Daoists Laozi and Zhuangzi, and drawing on John Dewey's theory of experience, I show how aesthetic experience relies on a reservoir of inchoate potential in achieving spontaneous action. I also draw on John Dewey in formulating the role of habit in spontaneity. Habit can be conceived as a trigger or spring that releases spontaneous actions, but Dewey also says that there must be more to spontaneous action than habit. I clarify this issue and take preliminary steps to providing a resolution. -/- Continuing with the issue the theory of spontaneous action from earlier chapters, in chapter 5, I offer a fully conceptualized account of spontaneous action. First, I reiterate the relationship of spontaneity to affectivity by explaining how affectivity understood as responsiveness culminates in an ideal that we call spontaneity. I then offer a new categorization of the arts into "active" and "non-active", a distinction that brings into focus the fact that the aesthetic value of some arts relies on the actions in the process of the creation or performance of a work. These works cannot be experienced apart from actions, and it is the spontaneity of the actions, I argue, that contributes to the success of the works. -/- . (shrink)
This paper addresses the notion of communicative action on the basis of Alfred Schutz’ writings. In Schutz’ work, communication is of particular significance and its importance is often neglected by phenomenologists. Communication plays a crucial role in his first major work, the Der sinnhafte Aufbau der sozialen Welt from 1932, yet communication is also a major feature in his unfinished works which were later completed posthumously by Thomas Luckmann: The Structures of the Life World (1973, 1989). In these texts, (...) Schutz sometimes refers to “communicative action,” and he comes to ascribe a crucial role to communication within the domain of the life world he calls everyday life. Based on Schutz’ texts, I shall first attempt to critically reconstruct the defining features of his notion of communication and communicative action. As a result, it emerges that Schutz’ notion of communication, particularly in its early incarnation, seems to be, at first glance, characterized by a dichotomy between virtual communication, that is communicative action in a narrow sense, and non-virtual communication. As I want to show with respect to the seemingly established dichotomous distinction between “mediated” and “immediate social action,” Schutz himself started to overcome this dichotomy. Based on this thesis, I will try to sketch a basic outline of a theory of communicative action, a theory less formulated by Schutz’ than built on Schutz’ writings. As the idea of communicative action, and particularly the transgression of the distinction between mediated and immediate action, affects the very structures of the life-world described by Schutz and Luckmann, I will ultimately demonstrate that any mundane phenomenology of the life-world requires a triangulatory method. (shrink)
We propose a unified theory of intentions as neural processes that integrate representations of states of affairs, actions, and emotional evaluation. We show how this theory provides answers to philosophical questions about the concept of intention, psychological questions about human behavior, computational questions about the relations between belief and action, and neuroscientific questions about how the brain produces actions. Our theory of intention ties together biologically plausible mechanisms for belief, planning, and motor control. The computational feasibility (...) of these mechanisms is shown by a model that simulates psychologically important cases of intention. (shrink)
Introduction : action, thought, pragmatism -- Neo-pragmatism and its critics -- Methodology : reconstructive dialectics -- A history of actiontheory -- Defining actions -- The explanation of action -- A material explication of agency -- Agency and existence.
Adjustments of everyday life in order to prevent disease or treat illness afflict partly unconscious preferences and cultural expectations that are often difficult to change. How should one, in medical contexts, talk with patients about everyday life in ways that might penetrate this blurred complexity, and help people find goals and make decisions that are both compatible with a good life and possible to accomplish? In this article we pursue the question by discussing how Habermas’ theory of communicative (...) class='Hi'>action can be implemented in decision-making processes in general practice. The theory of deliberative decision-making offers practical guidelines for what to talk about and how to do it. For a decision to be rooted in patients’ everyday life it has to take into consideration the patient’s practical circumstances, emotions and preferences, and what he or she perceives as ethically right behaviour towards other people. The aim is a balanced conversation, demonstrating respect, consistency and sincerity, as well as offering information and clarifying reasons. Verbalising reasons for one’s preferences may increase awareness of values and norms, which can then be reflected upon, producing decisions rooted in what the patient perceives as good and right behaviour. The asymmetry of medical encounters is both a resource and a challenge, demanding patient-centred medical leadership, characterised by empathy and ability to take the patient’s perspective. The implementation and adjustments of Habermas’ theory in general practice is illustrated by a case story. Finally, applications of the theory are discussed. (shrink)
The question "Why?" that is deployed in these exchanges evidently bears the "special sense" Elizabeth Anscombe has linked to the concepts of intention and of a reason for action; it is the sort of question "Why?" that asks for what Donald Davidson later called a "rationalization".2 The special character of what is given, in each response, as formulating a reason ── a description, namely, of the agent as actually doing something, and, moreover, as..
From a moral point of view we think of ourselves as capable of responsible actions. From a scientific point of view we think of ourselves as animals whose behavior, however highly evolved, conforms to natural scientific laws. Natural Agency argues that these different perspectives can be reconciled, despite the skepticism of many philosophers who have argued that "free will" is impossible under "scientific determinism." This skepticism is best overcome according to the author, by defending a causal theory of (...) class='Hi'>action, that is by establishing that actions are constituted by behavioral events with the appropriate kind of mental causal history. He sets out a rich and subtle argument for such a theory and defends it against its critics. Thus the book demonstrates the importance of philosophical work in actiontheory for the central metaphysical task of understanding our place in nature. (shrink)
A common criticism of free will or origination theories is that if what we do is not the result of an unbroken sequence of causes and effects, then it must to some degree be the product of chance. But in what sense can a chance act be intentional or deliberate, in what sense can it be based on reasons, and in what sense can a person be held responsible for it? If free and responsible action is incompatible with determinism, (...) must it not equally well be incompatible with indeterminism? Professor McCall says no. He argues that a new idea, that of a controlled indeterministic process, resolves a variety of classical dilemmas and opens the way to a new understanding of the relationship between actions, reasons, causes, and responsibility. Does he succeed? All of this, like a related line of argument by Professor McCann to which you can turn, is a long way from what seems to me the continuing arguableness of determinism and the unavoidableness of the proposition that both incompatibilism and compatibilism about freedom are false. But we all need to remember, with Cromwell, in our own bowels if not by those of Christ, that we may be mistaken. I guess that given the proportion of false to true views in the world, we need to remember it is arguable that we are more likely to be mistaken. (shrink)
Schumpeter's writings on the transition from capitalism to socialism, on innovative entrepreneurship, on business cycles, and on the modern corporation have attracted much attention among social scientists. Although Schumpeter's theoretical and sociological writings resemble the works of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber in that they further our understanding of the rise and nature of modern society, his contribution to social theory has yet to be assessed systematically. Arguing that Schumpeter's perspective, if understood in social theoretical terms, provides a promising starting (...) point for the sociological analysis of the changing relationship between economy and society, I concentrate on two elements of his work that are of value to theoretical sociology today: the distinction between creative action and rational action that is fundamental to his theory of the entrepreneur, and his thesis that the success of the capitalist system leads to its demise. (shrink)
Margaret Archer and Pierre Bourdieu have advanced what seem at first sight to be incompatible theories of human agency. While Archer places heavy stress on conscious reflexive deliberation and the consequent choices of identity and projects that individuals make, Bourdieu's concept of habitus places equally heavy stress on the role of social conditioning in determining our behavior, and downplays the contribution of conscious deliberation. Despite this, I argue that these two approaches, with some modification, can be reconciled in a single (...) emergentist theory of human action that is sketched out in this article. It examines how human dispositions and our reflexive decisions are related to the determination of human action, linking dispositions and decisions to their neural base in human physiology and to the social factors that influence them. As a result, it argues, we can see human action as the outcome of a continuous interaction between dispositions and reflexivity. The article goes on to relate this explanation back to Bourdieu's concept of the habitus and Archer's account of reflexivity. It argues that the weaknesses in Bourdieu's theory of action can be resolved by a reasonable reinterpretation of the habitus that makes it consistent with the emergentist theory and creates space for human choices as well as social influences on our behavior. This opens up a role for the sort of reflexive deliberations advocated by Archer and thus to a reconciliation of the key contributions of both Archer and Bourdieu. (shrink)
The out?dated intentionalistic assumptions manifest in Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action undermine a solution to the problem of order in actiontheory beyond utilitarianism. An analysis of his intersubjectivistic conception, which is based on the theory of the speech?act, shows that the incompleteness of Habermas's linguistic turn is due to his attempt to revive the older Critical Theory's concept of critique. The claims for a scientifically well?founded revival of a universal concept of reason ? (...) which are asserted in this concept ? invalidate the intersubjectivistic paradigm in actiontheory and therefore obstruct the way to a de?individualized formulation of the theory of social contract that avoids the paradox of utilitarian models. (shrink)
In his influential theory of health Nordenfelt bases the concepts of health and illness on the notions of ability and disability. A premise for this is that ability and disability provide a more promising, adequate, and useful basis than well-being and suffering. Nordenfelt uses coma and manic episodes as paradigm cases to show that this is so. Do these paradigm cases (and thus the premise) hold? What consequences does it have for the theory of health and illness if (...) it they do not? These are the key questions in this article, which first presents the relationship between pain and disability in Nordenfelt’s theory and the paradigm cases he uses to argue for the primacy of disability over pain. Then, Nordenfelt’s concepts of illness are outlined, highlighting its presumptions and arguments. The main point is that if you do not have an action-theoretical perspective, it is not obvious that disability is the core concept for illness. The compelling effect of the paradigm cases presupposes that you see ability as the primary issue. To those who do not share this presumption, people in coma may not be ill. There are alternative well founded arguments for the primacy of first person experiences for the concept of illness. Hence, we need better arguments for the primacy of disability over first person experiences in illness, or first-person experience should be more primarily included in the concept of illness. (shrink)
Davidson's seminal essay "Actions, Reasons and Causes" brought about a paradigm shift in the theory of action. Before Davidson the consensus was that the fundamental task of a theory of action was to elucidate the concept of action and event explanation. The debate concerning the nature of action explanation thus took place primarily in the philosophy of history and social science and was focussed on purely methodological issues. After Davidson it has been assumed that (...) the fundamental challenge for the theory of action is to answer not the conceptual question "what does it mean to explain something as an action?", but a metaphysical question, namely, "how is causal over-determination by the mental and the physical possible?". I argue that the two main considerations Davidson provides for construing the question posed by the action/event distinction in metaphysical rather than conceptual terms are inconclusive and that much is to be learned from the conceptual approach championed by Collingwood and Dray in the context of their philosophy of history. (shrink)
In recent years there has been an outpouring of work at the intersection of social movement studies and organizational theory. While we are generally in sympathy with this work, we think it implies a far more radical rethinking of structure and agency in modern society than has been realized to date. In this article, we offer a brief sketch of a general theory of strategic action fields (SAFs). We begin with a discussion of the main elements of (...) the theory, describe the broader environment in which any SAF is embedded, consider the dynamics of stability and change in SAFs, and end with a respectful critique of other contemporary perspectives on social structure and agency. (shrink)
Neil Fligstein and Doug McAdam have presented a new theory of how collective action creates the structure and dynamics of societies. At issue is the behavior of social movements, organizations, states, political parties, and interest groups. They argue that all of these phenomena are produced by social actors (which may be individuals or groups) involved in strategic action. This allows Fligstein and McAdam to advance a unified theory of "strategic action fields." This article takes issue (...) with aspects of Fligstein and McAdam's important contribution. We argue that that all organizations are not essentially the same; in addition to the location and interactions of their strategic actors, their dynamics are shaped and distinguished by differing values and norms, by the autonomy of institutions embedded in strategic action fields, and by the fractal relationships that nested fields have to broader principles of justice and social organization that span societies. We also criticize the view that social change can be conceptualized solely in terms of shifting configurations of actors in strategic action fields. Rather, any theory of social action must distinguish between periods of routine contention under the current institutions and norms and exceptional challenges to the social order that aim to transform those institutions and norms. (shrink)
Gideon Yaffee’s Manifest Activity is an important contribution to both the studies of Thomas Reid’s views and actiontheory. Reid is known as an early advocate of an agent-causal view of free will; more recent advocates include Roderick Chisholm. Manifest Activity is a well-appreciated effort at bringing Reid’s particular version of agent-causalism and his arguments for it into the contemporary discussion. Manifest Activity should be of interest to Reid scholars, action theorists, and anyone who wants to explore (...) a focused, critical analysis of a fascinating thinker. Yaffee’s writing is clear and readable, yet rigorous and detailed. Yaffee’s aim in each chapter is clearly laid out, and the structure of each is clear. Some chapters start out with a reconstruction of one of Reid’s argument, and then Yaffee assesses each of the premises in turn. Other chapters begin with an interpretive puzzle, which Yaffee solves with resources from the Reid corpus. At times, the dialectic gets complex, but concise summaries that tie the arguments together are a welcome end of each chapter. Skipping the footnotes is not recommended, as they often contain significant reflections, extensions, or qualifications of points in the main text, if not important references to historical and contemporary texts. (shrink)
In exploring the impact of cognitive science findings on compatibilist theories of moral responsibility such as Fischer and Ravizza’s, most attention has focused on whether agents are, in fact, responsive to reasons. In doing so, however, we have largely ignored our improved understanding of agents’ epistemic access to their reasons for acting. The “ownership” component of Fischer and Ravizza’s theory depends on agents being able to see the causal efficacy of their conscious deliberation. Cognitive science studies make clear that (...) a variety of situational factors, implicit attitudes, and unconscious mental states influence agents’ behavior, and that they are generally unaware of their impact. If an agent is skeptical of the extent to which her conscious deliberation has causal upshots in the world, then she – like a natural incompatibilist – may not take ownership over her action-generating mechanism. Instead, she may seek a more general account of moral responsibility or revise her moral intuitions altogether. (shrink)
Richard Koch first made his appearance in the 1920s with works published on the foundations of medicine. These publications describe the character of medicine as an action and the status of medicine within the theory of science. One of his conclusions is that medicine is not a science in the original sense of the word, but a practical discipline. It serves a practical purpose: to heal the sick. All medical knowledge is oriented towards this purpose, which also defines (...) the physician’s role. One kind of knowledge is diagnosis, which is strictly understood in relation to therapy, and is at the core of medical thinking. Diagnosis is not the assignment of a term of a species to a patient’s disease: this would not do justice to the individuality of a clinical manifestation and would fail to provide a reason for individual therapy. Nevertheless, the terms assigned to diseases, although fictitious, are not useless, but assist in differentiating various phenomena. These conclusions carry ethical consequences. Because the task of helping the sick constitutes medicine, morals not only set ethical limits: medicine originates in a moral decision. If there are no diseases but only individual sick people, disease can not be defined as an abnormality. The individual benefit to the patient must not necessarily be the complete restoration of health. With its object being incalculable, medicine cannot guarantee its own success. Here the physician has to develop principles that allow for the best possible response to the challenges faced in varying situations of conduct. (shrink)
The causal theory of action has been the standard view in the philosophy of action and mind. In this chapter, I will present responses to two challenges to the theory. The first says, basically, that there is no positive argument in favour of the causal theory, as the only reason that supports it consists in the apparent lack of tenable alternatives. The second challenge says that the theory fails to capture the phenomenon of agency, (...) as it reduces activity to mere happenings (events and event-causal processes). This is often referred to as the problem of "disappearing agency". My main aim is to show that there is no problem of disappearing agency, and we will see that my response to the first challenge will be conducive to this end. I will present a positive argument for the causal theory on the basis of considerations concerning the metaphysics of agency, and I will suggest that we "own" the agency that springs from our mental states and events "by default". (shrink)
Skilled activity, such as shaving or dancing, differs in important ways from many of the stock examples that are employed by action theorists. Some critics of the causal theory of action contend that such a view founders on the problem of skilled activity. This paper examines how a causal theory can be extended to the case of skilled activity and defends the account from its critics.
b>. The current essay introduces the guidance theory of representation, according to which the content and intentionality of representations can be accounted for in terms of the way they provide guidance for action. The guidance theory offers a way of fixing representational content that gives the causal and evolutionary history of the subject only an indirect (non-necessary) role, and an account of representational error, based on failure of action, that does not rely on any such notions (...) as proper functions, ideal conditions, or normal circumstances. Moreover, because the notion of error is defined in terms of failure of action, the guidance theory meets the. (shrink)
Extensive interest in business ethics has developed accompanied by an increase in empirical research on the determinants of unethical conduct. In setting forth the theory of reasoned action, Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) maintained that research attention on such variables as personality traits and demographic characteristics is misplaced and, instead, researchers should focus on behavioral intentions and the beliefs that shape those intentions. This study summarizes business ethics research which tests the theory of reasoned action and suggests (...) directions for further research. (shrink)
Academic social scientists and professional practitioners could increase the effectiveness of their undertakings to advance positive change toward solving social and organizational problems by more effectively combining their efforts. Historically, both realms have used reductionist techniques and methodologies that are unsuited for understanding and solving problems in social and organizational systems. Their efforts could be significantly enhanced by using a grounded theory/grounded action approach. Grounded theory/grounded action is designed to generate explanations directly from data that provide (...) a theoretical foothold for effecting optimal and sustainable change in social and organizational systems. (shrink)
Morality for the purposes of this paper consists of sets of rules or principles intended for the general regulation of conduct for all. Intuitionist accounts of morality are rejected as making reasoned analysis of morals impossible. In many interactions, there is partial conflict and partial cooperation. From the general social point of view, the rational thing to propose is that we steer clear of conflict and promote cooperation. This is what it is rational to propose to reinforce, and to assist (...) in reinforcing in society; it is not necessarily what it is individually rational to do. Even so, given the general situation, the rationality of its reinforcement will typically support the rationality of individual action as well. Game theory makes it possible to clarify these interactions, and these proposals for social solutions. (shrink)
This significant, stimulating contribution to Kantian practical philosophy strives to interpret Kant’s theory of action in ways that will increase readers’ understanding and appreciation of Kant’s moral theory. Its thesis is that Kant combines metaphysical freedom and psychological determinism: our actions within the phenomenal world are causally determined by our prior psychological states in that world and are appearances of our free action in the noumenal world. McCarty argues for a metaphysical, “two-worlds” interpretation of Kant’s transcendental (...) distinction between appearances and things in themselves over epistemological or methodological “two-standpoints” interpretations familiar from Christine Korsgaard. (shrink)