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 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. 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.
  18. The Philosophy of Action of Lok. B.G. Tilak's Githarahasya.V. Mangalvedkar - 1919 - Indian Literature Publishers.
  19. Almost Nothing Happening: An Essay on Action and Event.John Mullarkey - unknown
  20. Catholic Action and Unemployables.L. O'Hea - 1934 - New Blackfriars 15 (174):606-609.
  21. Morality as Style In Action.J. B. O'Malley - 1967 - Philosophical Studies 16:165-181.
  22. Conversation Through Actions and the Changing of Epistemic States in a Game.Tianqun Pan - 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 (...)
  23. The Theoretical Relations of Thought and Action.Charles Perelman - 1958 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1 (1-4):130 – 136.
  24. Directed Action and Animal Communication.Daisie M. Radner - 1993 - Ration 6 (2):135-54.
  25. Review of David Hunter, 'Belief and Agency'. [REVIEW]Lubomira V. Radoilska - unknown
  26. 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. (...)
  27. The Non-Causal Self-Fulfillment of Intention.K. W. Rankin - 1972 - American Philosophical Quarterly 9 (4):279 - 289.
  28. Harming Yourself and Others: A Note on the Asymmetry of Agency in Action Evaluations.Erich Rast - 2014 - Polish Journal of Philosophy 8 (2):65-74.
    Principles are investigated that allow one to establish a preference ordering between possible actions based on the question of whether the acting agent himself or other agents will benefit or be harmed by the consequences of an action. It is shown that a combination of utility maximization, an altruist principle, and weak negative utilitarianism yields an ordering that seems to be intuitively appealing, although it does not necessarily reflect common everyday evaluations of actions.
  29. Action.David Rayfield - 1968 - Noûs 2 (2):131-145.
  30. The Necessity of Learning for Agency.Tim Räz - unknown
    The present paper examines the notion of agency using a model from artificial intelligence. The main thesis of the paper is that learning is a necessary condition for agency: Agency presupposes control, and control is acquired in a learning process. This thesis is explored using the so-called PS model. After substantiation the thesis, the paper explores the relation between agency and different kinds of learning using the PS model.
  31. The Logic of Action: Indeterminacy, Emotion, and Historical Narrative.William M. Reddy - 2001 - History and Theory 40 (4):10–33.
    Modern social theory, by and large, has aimed at reducing the complexity of action situations to a set of manageable abstractions. But these abstractions, whether functionalist or linguistic, fail to grasp the indeterminacy of action situations.Action proceeds by discovery and combination. The logic of action is serendipitous and combinative. From these characteristics, a number of consequences flow: The whole field of our intentions is engaged in each action situation, and cannot really be understood apart from the situation itself. In action (...)
  32. The Hellenistic Stoa. Political Thought and Action.Margaret E. Reesor - 1990 - Review of Metaphysics 44 (1):139-140.
  33. Improving Attendance and Behaviour in Wales: The Action Plan.Ken Reid - 2010 - Educational Studies 36 (3):233-247.
    The National Behaviour and Attendance Review Report for Wales was produced in 2008. Subsequently, its recommendations were accepted by the Welsh Assembly Government which established an Implementation Group to prepare its response in detail. A year later in April 2009 this Group presented its findings and recommendations to WAG in the form of an Action Plan. The Action Plan was entitled Behaving and Attending: Responding to the National Behaviour and Attendance Review. The intention of the Action Plan is to help (...)
  34. E Pluribus Unum: A Defense of Davidson's Individuation of Action.Norvin Richards - 1976 - Philosophical Studies 29 (3):191 - 198.
  35. Control Modification as a Criterion of Human Action.William M. Richards - 1974 - Journal of Critical Analysis 5 (3):104-111.
  36. Words That Govern Men: A Cultural Explanation of the Swedish Intervention Into the Thirty Years War.Erik Ringmar - 1993 - Dissertation, Yale University
    My dissertation combines a historical case study with an argument derived from the philosophy of science. Why do states act the way they do, and how should foreign policy actions be explained? I begin by showing how existing explanations advanced both by historians and social scientists have problems incorporating intentional factors into the framework of their analyses. The historian will always be tempted to overwrite the meanings of the past with the meanings she constructs through her own narrative; the social (...)
  37. Thought and Action.Stanley H. Rosen - 1959 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 2 (1-4):65 – 84.
  38. A New American Agency. Russell - 1958 - Hibbert Journal 57:1.
  39. Une Perspective Fondamentale de la Théorie de l'Information Et de l'Action Technique: La Dualité de l'Action Concrète Et du Signal.F. Russo - 1958 - Dialectica 12 (1):70-80.
  40. A Preliminary Investigation of the Effects of Mental Distraction Upon Muscular Fatigue.D. G. Ryans - 1935 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 18 (1):148.
  41. Aarnio on Intention as Leading to Action.Esa Saarinen - 1979 - In Aleksander Peczenik & Jyrki Uusitalo (eds.), Reasoning on Legal Reasoning. Society of Finnish Lawyers. pp. 6--199.
  42. Les Modáeles de L'Action.Bertrand Saint-Sernin - 1998
  43. Philosophy of Action From Suarez to Davidson.Constantine Sandis (ed.) - forthcoming
  44. Can We Refer to a Concerted Action Among Rapsomates, Caryces Ant the Emir Tzachas Between A. D. 1091 and 1093 ?A. Savvides - 2000 - Byzantion 70 (1):122-134.
  45. Taking Actions Seriously.Charles Sayward - 1995 - Behavior and Philosophy 23 (24):51-60.
    Two kinds of functionalism are distinguished: intensional and extensional. The former is argued to be superior to the latter. The former is also defended against two objections independently put forth by Ned Block and John Searle.
  46. Action, See Interpreting Human Action Age Trends, 64 Harm Versus Intention, 65 Altruism. 430-434 Rescuers, 440-442.Sociomoral Competence Scales & Piaget Egocentrism - 1991 - In William M. Kurtines & Jacob L. Gewirtz (eds.), Handbook of Moral Behavior and Development. L. Erlbaum. pp. 459.
  47. Arm and Hand Movement Control.Stefan Schaal - 2002 - In M. Arbib (ed.), The Handbook of Brain Theory and Neural Networks. MIT Press. pp. 2--110.
  48. Understanding Action.Frederic Schick - 1994 - Erkenntnis 41 (1):127-133.
  49. PRADINES, M. - Critique des Conditions de l'Action. [REVIEW]F. C. S. Schiller - 1911 - Mind 20:422.
  50. 8 The Sources of Behavior: Toward a Naturalistic, Control Account of Agency.Bernhard Schlink - 2007 - In Don Ross, David Spurrett, Harold Kincaid & G. Lynn Stephens (eds.), Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual Volition and Social Context. MIT Press. pp. 123.
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