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. Action and Purpose. [REVIEW]Raziel Abelson - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (6):178-192.
  2. Interpretation as Action.Jon Awbrey & Susan Awbrey - 1995 - Inquiry 15 (1):40-52.
  3. 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. (...)
  4. Thought and Action.S. F. Barker & Stuart Hampshire - 1962 - Philosophical Review 71 (3):392.
  5. Intention, Motive and Responsibility.Winston Barnes, W. D. Falk & A. E. Duncan-Jones - 1945 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 19:230-288.
  6. Before Refraining: Concepts for Agency. [REVIEW]Nuel Belnap - 1991 - Erkenntnis 34 (2):137 - 169.
    A structure is described that can serve as a foundation for a semantics for a modal agentive construction such as sees to it that Q ([ stit: Q]). The primitives are Tree,,Instant, Agent, choice. Eleven simple postulates governing this structure are set forth and motivated. Tree and encode a picture of branching time consisting of moments gathered into maximal chains called histories. Instant imposes a time-like ordering. Agent consists of agents, and choice assigns to each agent and each moment in (...)
  7. Review of "Vital Control". [REVIEW]Roman A. Bernert - 1935 - Modern Schoolman 13:21.
  8. Part IV. The Concept of Action: Analytic Philosophy.Richard J. Bernstein - 1972 - In Praxis and Action: Contemporary Philosophies of Human Activity. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 230-304.
  9. Purposive Action.Bernard Berofsky - 1970 - American Philosophical Quarterly 7 (4):311 - 320.
  10. The Role of Agency Detection in the Invention of Supernatural Beings.Tommaso Bertolotti & Lorenzo Magnani - 2010 - In W. Carnielli L. Magnani (ed.), Model-Based Reasoning in Science and Technology. pp. 239--262.
  11. Rational and Social Agency: The Philosophy of Michael Bratman. [REVIEW]Olle Blomberg - 2015 - Journal of Social Ontology 1 (2):377-379.
  12. De dubbele oorspronkelijkheid Van blondels “action”.S. J. Boey - 2013 - Bijdragen 24 (2):130-153.
  13. The Four Faces of Omission.Giovanni Boniolo & Gabriele De Anna - 2006 - Philosophical Explorations 9 (3):277 – 293.
    In this paper, the ontological, terminological, epistemological, and ethical aspects of omission are considered in a coherent and balanced framework, based on the idea that there are omissions which are actions and omissions which are non-actions. In particular, we suggest that the approach to causation which best deals with omission is Mackie's INUS conditional proposal. We argue that omissions are determined partly by the ontological conditional structure of reality, and partly by the interests, beliefs, and values of observers. The final (...)
  14. Choice: The Essential Element in Human Action.Myles Brand & Alan Donagan - 1991 - Philosophical Review 100 (1):115.
  15. XV*-Two Problems About Human Agency.Michael E. Bratman - 2001 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 101 (3):309-326.
  16. Can Desires Be Causes of Actions?D. A. Browne - 1975 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 5 (sup2):145-158.
  17. 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.
  18. Agency and the Other: The Role of Agency for the Importance of Belief in Buddhist and Christian Traditions.Julia Cassaniti - 2012 - Ethos 40 (3):297-316.
  19. Aristoteles o Praktickom Usudzovaní.Václav Černík - 1994 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 1 (4):279-291.
    The aim of this article is to reconstruct Aristotleś conception of practical reasoning, explanation and understanding of human action. The author examines the problem of practical/theoretical paralelism of reasoning in Aristotle. He describes Aristotleś approach to the problem of function of practical syllogism in explanation of human action. He attempts to show that Aristotleś conception of explanation and understanding of human action is an anticipation of contempory method of humanistical interpretation. This is the method of scientific explanation involving a presupposition (...)
  20. V—The Same Action.Michael Cohen - 1970 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 70 (1):75-92.
  21. Discontenting Contented Capitalists A B&S Action Plan.Denis Collins - 1994 - Business and Society 33 (1):132-138.
  22. Social Glue and Norms of Sociality.David Copp - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (12):3387-3397.
    If we are going to understand morality, it is important to understand the nature of societies. What is fundamental to them? What is the glue that holds them together? What is the role of shared norm acceptance in constituting a society? Michael Bratman’s account of modest sociality in his book, Shared Agency, casts significant light on these issues. Bratman’s account focuses on small-scale interactions, but it is instructive of the kinds of factors that can enter into explaining sociality more generally. (...)
  23. Freedom and Enforcement in Action.Janusz Czelakowski - unknown -
    Situational aspects of action are discussed. The presented approach emphasizes the role of situational contexts in which actions are performed. These contexts influence the course of an action; they are determined not only by the current state of the system but also shaped by other factors as time, the previously undertaken actions and their succession, the agents of actions and so on. The distinction between states and situations is explored from the perspective of action systems. The notion of a situational (...)
  24. From Thought to Action.Jonathan Dancy - unknown -
  25. Two Ways of Explaining Actions.Jonathan Dancy - unknown -
  26. Two Ways of Explaining Actions.Jonathan Dancy - unknown -
  27. Two Ways of Explaining Actions.Jonathan Dancy - unknown -
  28. Two Ways of Explaining Actions.Jonathan Dancy - unknown -
  29. Action.Arthur C. Danto & D. G. Brown - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (4):582.
  30. I. Agency.Donald Davidson - 1971 - In Ausonio Marras, R. N. Bronaugh & Robert W. Binkley (eds.), Agent, Action, and Reason. University of Toronto Press. pp. 1-37.
  31. The Action of God.Brian Davies - 1994 - New Blackfriars 75 (879):76-84.
  32. Analytical Philosophy of Action. [REVIEW]Lawrence H. Davis - 1976 - Journal of Philosophy 73 (4):99-107.
  33. Actions.Lawrence H. Davis - 1975 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 5 (sup2):129-144.
  34. Ramsey's Principle Re-Situated.Jérôme Dokic & Pascal Engel - 2004 - In Hallvard Lillehammer & D. H. Mellor (eds.), Ramsey's Legacy. Oxford University Press.
    This paper is about Ramsey's Principle, according to which a belief's truth-conditions are those that guarantee the success of an action based on that belief whatever the underlying motivating desires. Some philosophers have argued that the Principle should be rejected because it leads to the apparently implausible consequence that any failure of action is the result of some false belief on the agent's part. There is a gap between action and success that cannot be bridged by the agent's cognitive state. (...)
  35. Choice: The Essential Element in Human Action.Alan Donagan - 2017 - Routledge.
    This book, first published in 1987, investigates what distinguishes the part of human behaviour that is action from the part that is not. The distinction was clearly drawn by Socrates, and developed by Aristotle and the medievals, but key elements of their work became obscured in modern philosophy, and were not fully recovered when, under Wittgenstein’s influence, the theory of action was revived in analytical philosophy. This study aims to recover those elements, and to analyse them in terms of a (...)
  36. Action.Fred I. Dretske & Malcolm Knox - 1971 - Philosophical Review 80 (2):251.
  37. 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 (...)
  38. Some Proposals for Action.Luther H. Evans - 1962 - Isis 53 (1):101-105.
  39. 5. Rational Agency.Paul Fairfield - 2000 - In Moral Selfhood in the Liberal Tradition. University of Toronto Press. pp. 184-209.
  40. 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” (...)
  41. Action as the Exercise of a Two-Way Power.Kim Frost - 2013 - Inquiry 56 (6):611-624.
  42. L'action. Tome II. L'action Humain Et les Conditions de Son Aboutissement. [REVIEW]B. G. - 1938 - Journal of Philosophy 35 (8):222-222.
  43. L'Action. Vol. I. Le Problème des Causes Secondes Et le Pur Agir. [REVIEW]B. G. - 1937 - Journal of Philosophy 34 (19):527-527.
  44. Time in Action.Shaun Gallagher - 2011 - In Craig Callender (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time. Oxford University Press.
  45. Actions.Carl Ginet & Jennifer Hornsby - 1984 - Philosophical Review 93 (1):120.
  46. An Essay on Human Action.Carl Ginet & Michael J. Zimmerman - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (1):114.
  47. Animals: Agency, Reasons and Reasoning.Hans Johann Glock - unknown -
  48. 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.
  49. 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.
  50. The Action Ofeucomis Undulata, Ait.J. W. C. Gunn - 1922 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 10 (1):1-4.
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