About this topic
Summary "Action Theory" as it is used here is the sub-area in the philosophy of action/agency that is concerned chiefly with the foundations of the broader sub-discipline. Central problems include the nature and scope of intentional action and agency, the explanation of action, and our knowledge of our actions. Most of the other problems that fall within the scope of this category at PhilPapers are closely related to such foundational questions.
Key works Perhaps the two most influential works that have shaped the current state of action theory are Anscombe 1957 and Davidson 1963. Davidson's essay is the locus classicus for the causal theory of action and for causalism about reason-explanations of actions. Anscombe's book has been influential among proponents of non-causal theories of action and reason-explanation. For a classic defense of the agent-causal perspective, see Chisholm 1966. And for a volitionist perspective, see McCann 1974. Some collections of essays that may help readers get a sense of the major debates in action theory today include Mele Alfred 1997, Aguilar & Buckareff 2010, Aguilar & Buckareff 2009, and D'Oro & Sandis 2013.
Introductions The following are good places to start to for those looking for guides to the current state of the art in action theory. Mele 2005 Mele 1992 Wilson 2008
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  1. Human Thought and Action.Forrest E. Baird - 1992 - Upa.
    A book of readings in Western intellectual history focusing on the role of reason in human action. Contents:^ Plato: Myth of the Cave; Plato: ^IThe Four Virtues; Aristotle: Knowledge of Causes; Aristotle: The Types of Governments; Epicurus: Epicureanism; Epictetus: Stoicism; St. Augustine: The Platonist; St. Augustine: The Nature of Sources of Evil; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Four Laws; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Nature of the Soul; Pico: The Oration on the Dignity of Man; John Calvin: Reason, Sin and Illumination; St. (...)
  2. De dubbele oorspronkelijkheid Van blondels “action”.S. J. Boey - 2013 - Bijdragen 24 (2):130-153.
  3. Order, Action, Victimage.”.Kenneth Burke - 1968 - In Paul Grimley Kuntz (ed.), The Concept of Order. Seattle, Published for Grinnell College by the University of Washington Press. pp. 167--90.
  4. Action.Fred I. Dretske & Malcolm Knox - 1971 - Philosophical Review 80 (2):251.
  5. Sincere-Strategy Preference-Based Approval Voting Fully Resists Constructive Control and Broadly Resists Destructive Control.Gábor Erdélyi, Markus Nowak & Jörg Rothe - 2009 - Mathematical Logic Quarterly 55 (4):425-443.
    We study sincere-strategy preference-based approval voting, a system proposed by Brams and Sanver [1] and here adjusted so as to coerce admissibility of the votes, with respect to procedural control. In such control scenarios, an external agent seeks to change the outcome of an election via actions such as adding/deleting/partitioning either candidates or voters. SP-AV combines the voters' preference rankings with their approvals of candidates, where in elections with at least two candidates the voters' approval strategies are adjusted – if (...)
  6. Some Proposals for Action.Luther H. Evans - 1962 - Isis 53 (1):101-105.
  7. 5. Rational Agency.Paul Fairfield - 2000 - In Moral Selfhood in the Liberal Tradition. University of Toronto Press. pp. 184-209.
  8. Speech and Action in Heraclitus. On the Theoretical Foundations of Moral Action.Michel Fattal - 2013 - Archiwum Historii Filozofii I Myśli Społecznej 58.
    Doesn’t the originality of Heraclitus reside in elaborating, well before Socrates and Plato, a philosophical and theoretical reflection on the foundations of moral and political action? In what ways does Heraclitus envisage the relations between speech and action? The logos and epos of the philosopher, which are behind the doctrine of the harmony of opposites, don’t they offer a pathway, a stable criterion and norm for individual and collective action?Our contemporaries of the 21th century, conscious of the “crisis of values” (...)
  9. L'action. Tome II. L'action Humain Et les Conditions de Son Aboutissement. [REVIEW]B. G. - 1938 - Journal of Philosophy 35 (8):222-222.
  10. L'Action. Vol. I. Le Problème des Causes Secondes Et le Pur Agir. [REVIEW]B. G. - 1937 - Journal of Philosophy 34 (19):527-527.
  11. Editorial 1 Knowing One's Own Actions George Wilson/Proximal Practical Foresight 3–19 Kevin Falvey/Knowledge in Intention 21–44 Nomy Arpaly/Hamlet and the Utilitarians 45–57. [REVIEW]George Graham, Terence Horgan, Mary Mary & Quite Contrary - 2000 - Philosophical Studies 99:373-374.
  12. 5. The New Problem of the Imputability of Actions.Robert Greenberg - 2016 - In The Bounds of Freedom: Kant’s Causal Theory of Action. De Gruyter. pp. 61-80.
  13. The Action Ofeucomis Undulata, Ait.J. W. C. Gunn - 1922 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 10 (1):1-4.
  14. The Action Ofurginea Burkei.J. W. C. Gunn - 1921 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 9 (2):197-204.
  15. 3. Thought and Action.Stuart Hampshire - 2016 - In Bernard Williams (ed.), Essays and Reviews: 1959-2002. Princeton University Press. pp. 8-17.
  16. LAWRENCE, R. "Motive and Intention". [REVIEW]O. Hanfling - 1975 - Mind 84:142.
  17. The Great Learning and the Mean-in-Action. [REVIEW]P. L. K. - 1943 - Journal of Philosophy 40 (13):363-363.
  18. Questioning Contingency in Social Life: Roles, Agreement and Agency.Stephen Kemp & John Holmwood - 2012 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 42 (4):403-424.
    Structure/agency theories presuppose that there is a unity to structure that distinguishes it from the (potential) diversity of agents' responses. In doing so they formally divide the robust social processes shaping the social world (structure) from contingent agential variation (agency). In this article we question this division by critically evaluating its application to the concept of role in critical realism and structural functionalism. We argue that Archer, Elder-Vass and Parsons all mistakenly understand a role to have a singular structural definition (...)
  19. Changing Things: Aristotle on Action and the Capacity for Action in Metaphysics IX, 5.R. King - unknown
  20. Notes on the Action of the Pseudostatement.L. Lawrence - 1989 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 10 (2):173-177.
  21. Instrumentalism and Action.Otis Lee - 1940 - Journal of Philosophy 37 (3):57-75.
  22. Scope of Action as Scene of 'Everyday Drama' – A Study in a Finnish Newspaper. An Institutional and Critical Perspective to the Interpretation of Empiric Material.Paavo Lintula - 2008 - Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies 13 (1):51-65.
    Occupational psychology deals with the work of an individual person with all its characteristics and implications, but refrains from meddling with the structures and dynamics of the employer organization. Organizational studies, on the other hand, are very little concerned with the work of a single employee and its impacts on the individual. This paper describes how the ‘grey area’ between the disciplines can be covered by integrating the action regulation theory, an approach of occupational psychology, with the institutional and critical (...)
  23. What Influences Action is Not Necessary Conscious.Robert F. Litke - 1977 - Philosophy Research Archives 3:274-288.
    It is ccranonly supposed that what we know and believe influences what we do, that knowledge and beliefs provide us with considerations which guide our action. Sane recent discussions of human behavior makes this appear dubious. In particular, by holding that influential considerations must be conscious occurrent events they make it appear that there is substantially less influence than we usually take for granted. In turn, this suggests that in large measure human action is unknowing, that agents often do not (...)
  24. On the Ability to Inhibit Thought and Action: General and Special Theories of an Act of Control.Gordon D. Logan, Trisha Van Zandt, Frederick Verbruggen & Eric-Jan Wagenmakers - 2014 - Psychological Review 121 (1):66-95.
  25. Mind in Action.Pentti Määttänen - unknown
    In colloquial language habit of action may refer to blind routine behaviour or bad bodily habits that one should get rid of. In pragmatism it is a central notion in challenging classical philosophy by explaining how habits function as beliefs and meanings, as vehicles of cognition.
  26. A Mistake About Causality in Social Science.Alasdair MacIntyre & Andrei Korbut - 2013 - Russian Sociological Review 12 (1):139-157.
    The article considers the problem of actions–beliefs link. As author shows, the widespread approach in social science, those origins can be traced back to Hume and Mill and which tries to reveal the causal relations between beliefs and actions, is mistaken. It is mistaken because it proposes that, firstly, beliefs and actions are distinct and separately identifiable social phenomena and, secondly, causal connection consists in constant conjunction. MacIntyre, instead, proposes, taking as a starting point the distinction between physical movement and (...)
  27. Doing and Happening.Ruth Macklin - 1968 - Review of Metaphysics 22 (2):246 - 261.
  28. WhatValues Underlie Our Actions?Graeme MacQueen - 2008 - In Neil Arya & Joanna Santa Barbara (eds.), Peace Through Health: How Health Professionals Can Work for a Less Violent World. Kumarian Press. pp. 1075.
  29. The Philosophy of Action of Lok. B.G. Tilak's Githarahasya.V. Mangalvedkar - 1919 - Indian Literature Publishers.
  30. Alvin I. Goldman, a Theory of Human Action.Joseph Margolis - 1974 - Metaphilosophy 5 (4):348–364.
  31. Time and the Philosophy of Action.Roman Altshuler Michael J. Sigrist (ed.) - forthcoming - Routledge.
  32. Rational Action.W. Watts Miller - 1982 - Philosophical Studies 29:351-353.
  33. Commitment and Action.A. Monga - 1976 - Indian Philosophical Quarterly 6 (2):333.
  34. Helden Und Schwerter. Durchschlagkraft Und Agency in Heldenepischem Zusammenhang.Anna Mühlherr - 2014 - In Heike Sahm & Victor Millet (eds.), Narration and Hero: Recounting the Deeds of Heroes in Literature and Art of the Early Medieval Period. De Gruyter. pp. 259-276.
  35. Almost Nothing Happening: An Essay on Action and Event.John Mullarkey - unknown
  36. Operant Variability and Voluntary Action.Allen Neuringer & Greg Jensen - 2010 - Psychological Review 117 (3):972-993.
  37. Action and Agency in Mahler's Ninth Symphony, Second Movement.Anthony Newcomb - 1997 - In Jenefer Robinson (ed.), Music & Meaning. Cornell University Press.
  38. A Companion to the Philosophy of Action.C. O'Connor, Sandis, T. (ed.) - 2010 - Blackwell.
    _A Companion to the Philosophy of Action_ offers a comprehensive overview of the issues and problems central to the philosophy of action. The first volume to survey the entire field of philosophy of action Brings together specially commissioned chapters from international experts Discusses a range of ideas and doctrines, including rationality, free will and determinism, virtuous action, criminal responsibility, Attribution Theory, and rational agency in evolutionary perspective Individual chapters also cover prominent historic figures from Plato to Ricoeur Can be approached (...)
  39. Catholic Action and Unemployables.L. O'Hea - 1934 - New Blackfriars 15 (174):606-609.
  40. Morality as Style In Action.J. B. O'Malley - 1967 - Philosophical Studies 16:165-181.
  41. Conversation Through Actions and the Changing of Epistemic States in a Game.Pan Tianqun - 2010 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 5 (4):666-673.
    When a person performs a certain action, it signifies that he is causing a certain event to occur. Therefore the action is conveying a certain true sentence. Playing a game is a mutual activity, namely the listener and the speaker undertake an exchange through a linguistic dialogue or communicate through action. Because of the peculiar nature of the action, the actions in games belong to an activity where the speaker speaks true words and the listener hears true words. A static (...)
  42. Control and Vulnerability : Reflections on the Nature of Human Agency and Personhood.Sharli Anne Paphitis - unknown
    Following the writings of philosophers such as Harry Frankfurt, Gary Watson, and Alfred Mele, in this thesis I defend some central claims of the self-control view of human agency. However, I not only defend, but also supplement this view in the following two ways. First, drawing on work by Mary Midgley and Sigmund Freud I advance the claim that self-control requires the experience of internal conflict between an agent’s motivations and intentions. Second, drawing on insights from Simone de Beauvoir and (...)
  43. An Evaluation of the Concepts of Reflex and Voluntary Action.H. Peak - 1933 - Psychological Review 40 (1):71-89.
  44. The Theoretical Relations of Thought and Action.Charles Perelman - 1958 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1 (1-4):130 – 136.
  45. The Will and Human Action: From Antiquity to the Present Day.Thomas Pink & M. W. F. Stone (eds.) - 2014 - Routledge.
    What is the will? And what is its relation to human action? Throughout history, philosophers have been fascinated by the idea of 'the will': the source of the drive that motivates human beings to act. However, there has never been a clear consensus as to what the will is and how it relates to human action. Some philosophers have taken the will to be based firmly in reason and rational choice, and some have seen it as purely self-determined. Others have (...)
  46. The Will and Human Action: From Antiquity to the Present Day.Thomas Pink & M. W. F. Stone (eds.) - 2004 - Routledge.
    What is the will? And what is its relation to human action? Throughout history, philosophers have been fascinated by the idea of 'the will': the source of the drive that motivates human beings to act. However, there has never been a clear consensus as to what the will is and how it relates to human action. Some philosophers have taken the will to be based firmly in reason and rational choice, and some have seen it as purely self-determined. Others have (...)
  47. How Voluntary Are Minimal Actions?Joëlle Proust - unknown
    This book chapter aims at exploring how intentional a piece of behavior should be to count as an action, and how a minimal view on action, not requiring a richly intentional causation, may still qualify such a behavior as voluntary.
  48. Directed Action and Animal Communication.Daisie M. Radner - 1993 - Ration 6 (2):135-54.
  49. Review of David Hunter, 'Belief and Agency'. [REVIEW]Lubomira V. Radoilska - unknown
  50. A Biosemiotic Approach to the Problem of Structure and Agency.Shahram Rafieian - 2012 - Biosemiotics 5 (1):83-93.
    A human being is the simultaneous composite of several different levels of being, from atomic and subatomic to the level of complex social interaction, and these levels are nested within the individual hierarchically (lower levels giving rise to higher levels, etc.). One of the most important and influential approaches developed in the history of science has been that of systems theory and systemic thinking, in which the different levels of the hierarchy, and the interactions between those levels, are considered simultaneously. (...)
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