About this topic
Summary Agent causation distincts from Event causation, as the Agent itself is the cause for the event to take place and start another chain of events. In an event causion we tend to regard causal relations as paradigmatic - billiard balls striking one another, say - is an event; the event of one ball hitting another. The first relatum of an agent caused action is an agent herself. An Agent Causation theory of freedom was first introduced by the scottish philosopher Thomas Reid and was adopted by contemporary philosophers such as Roderick Chisholm, Richard Taylor and Timothy O'Connor. Agent causation is Incompatibilist view of Free Will and was adopted by Libertarians: they hope that agent causation gives to the agent a kind or degree of control over their actions that would be missing were actions event-caused (deterministically or indeterministically). A very few compatibilist theorists have also advanced agent-causal theories. The existence and the conceptual coherence of agent causation is subject to dispute.
Key works Agent causal theories date back to Reid 1863. An important defence of theories of this sort was offered by Roderick Chisholm, in Chisholm 1976 (among other works). In the contemporary debate, the most important defender of agent causation is Timothy O'Connor; O'Connor 2000 is his most important work on the topic. Clarke 2003 contains an important sympathetic but ultimately skeptical discussion. Mele 2005 argues that agent-causation does not solve the problem of reduced control that it was introducing to address; Clarke 2005 replies. Markosian 1999 is a defence of compatibilist agent-causation.
Introductions O'Connor 1995
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  1. added 2018-08-20
    Problems From Reid. [REVIEW]Rebecca Copenhaver - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (1):117-121.
  2. added 2018-08-17
    Effort and the Standard Story of Action.Michael Brent - 2012 - Philosophical Writings 40:19 - 27.
    In this paper, I present an alternative account of action that improves upon what has come to be known as the standard story. The standard story depicts actions as events that are caused by and made intelligible through the appropriate combinations of the agent’s beliefs, desires, decisions, intentions and other motivational factors. I argue that the standard story is problematic because it depicts the relation between the agent and their bodily actions as causally mediated by their motivational factors. On the (...)
  3. added 2018-08-09
    Heart of DARCness.Yang Liu & Huw Price - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-15.
    There is a long-standing disagreement in the philosophy of probability and Bayesian decision theory about whether an agent can hold a meaningful credence about an upcoming action, while she deliberates about what to do. Can she believe that it is, say, 70% probable that she will do A, while she chooses whether to do A? No, say some philosophers, for Deliberation Crowds Out Prediction (DCOP), but others disagree. In this paper, we propose a valid core for DCOP, and identify terminological (...)
  4. added 2018-05-28
    Substance Causation.Michele Paolini Paoletti - 2018 - Philosophia:1-22.
    I defend the thesis that, if there are substances, substance causation (i.e., causation by substances) is the only sort of causation in the universe – or the only fundamental sort. Subsequently, I develop an account of substance causation that is partly grounded on a peculiar interpretation of absolute change (i.e., of entities' coming and ceasing to be) and qualitative change, on some ontological assumptions about modes (i.e., individual properties that ontologically depend on their bearers) and powers. Finally, I reply to (...)
  5. added 2018-04-17
    Sind Handlungssätze singuläre Kausalsätze?Geert Keil - 1999 - In Uwe Meixner & Peter M. Simons (eds.), Metaphysik im postmetaphysischen Zeitalter. pp. 305-311.
    Können Personen im Wortsinne die Ursache von etwas sein? Wer die Frage bejaht, möge ein Akteurskausalist heißen. Ereigniskausalisten hingegen lassen als Relata der Kausalrelation allein Ereignisse zu. Manche Akteurskausalisten, allen voran Kant und Chisholm, fassen die Verursachung durch Handelnde als eine Kausalität sui generis auf, die der gewöhnlichen Ereigniskausalität gleichberechtigt zur Seite zu stellen sei. Andere Akteurskausalisten, beispielsweise Aristoteles, scheinen lediglich eine liberalere Auffassung möglicher kausaler Relata zu haben, ohne für Akteure eine besondere Verursachungsart vorzusehen. Im folgenden möchte ich die (...)
  6. added 2018-04-13
    Handlung, Urheberschaft und Willensfreiheit.Geert Keil - 2013 - In Achim Stephan & Sven Walter (eds.), Handbuch Kognitionswissenschaft. Metzler. pp. 304-308.
    Handbook article that describes the interrelations between the notions of agency, authorship, and free will.
  7. added 2018-04-12
    Libertarische Freiheit für natürliche Wesen. Zu Ansgar Beckermanns Freiheitsauffassung.Geert Keil - 2011 - Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie 36 (2):154-176.
    Der Beitrag ist ein Kommentar zu Ansgar Beckermanns kompatibilistischer Freiheitsauffassung. Nach Beckermann können libertarische Auffassungen die Willensfreiheit nicht verständlich machen. Durch ihre Ablehnung des Determinismus sähen sie sich zwei unattraktiven Optionen gegenüber: die Freiheit auf Akteurskausalität zu gründen oder auf den Zufall. Ich stimme Beckermann darin zu, dass Akteurskausalität schwer verständlich und das Zufallsproblem eine große Herausforderung für den Libertarismus ist. Ob der Kompatibilismus in einer besseren Lage ist, ist aber fraglich. Es gibt zwei Arten von Kompatibilisten: solche, die den (...)
  8. added 2018-04-08
    A Minimal Libertarianism: Free Will and the Promise of Reduction.Christopher Evan Franklin - 2018 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    In this book, Christopher Evan Franklin develops and defends a novel version of event-causal libertarianism. This view is a combination of libertarianism--the view that humans sometimes act freely and that those actions are the causal upshots of nondeterministic processes--and agency reductionism--the view that the causal role of the agent in exercises of free will is exhausted by the causal role of mental states and events (e.g., desires and beliefs) involving the agent. Franklin boldly counteracts a dominant theory that has similar (...)
  9. added 2018-03-30
    Uncertainty and Control.Sven Ove Hansson - 2017 - Diametros 53:50-59.
    In a decision making context, an agent’s uncertainty can be either epistemic, i.e. due to her lack of knowledge, or agentive, i.e. due to her not having made use of her decision-making power. In cases when it is unclear whether or not a decision maker presently has control over her own future actions, it is difficult to determine whether her uncertainty is epistemic or agentive. Such situations are often difficult for the agent to deal with, but from an outsider’s perspective, (...)
  10. added 2018-03-23
    The Unilateralist’s Curse and the Case for a Principle of Conformity.Nick Bostrom, Thomas Douglas & Anders Sandberg - 2016 - Social Epistemology 30 (4):350-371.
    In some situations a number of agents each have the ability to undertake an initiative that would have significant effects on the others. Suppose that each of these agents is purely motivated by an altruistic concern for the common good. We show that if each agent acts on her own personal judgment as to whether the initiative should be undertaken, then the initiative will be undertaken more often than is optimal. We suggest that this phenomenon, which we call the unilateralist’s (...)
  11. added 2018-03-13
    One-Particularism in the Theory of Action.David-Hillel Ruben - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (11):2677-2694.
    In this paper, I intend to introduce what I think is a novel proposal in the metaphysics of action: one-particularism. In order to do so, I must first explain two ideas: a concept in the semantics of English that many philosophers of action take to be of great importance in action theory, causative alternation; and the idea of an intrinsic event. By attempting to understand the role that intrinsic events are meant to play in action theory, I then introduce my (...)
  12. added 2018-03-12
    Agency, Causality and Properties.H. C. Steward - 2011 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 6 (3):390-401.
  13. added 2018-02-18
    Free Will: Critical Concepts in Philosophy.John Martin Fischer (ed.) - 2005 - Routledge.
    Over the last three decades there has been a tremendous amount of philosophical work in the Anglo-American tradition on the cluster of topics pertaining to Free Will. Contemporary work has in some instances been in the form of lively debates between proponents of different viewpoints, and literature surrounding the area is therefore characterized by a genuine vitality. This collection selects the very best of this material and presents it in a single, accessible set of volumes.
  14. added 2018-02-17
    Agent Causation as the Solution to All the Compatibilist’s Problems.Ned Markosian - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 157 (3):383-398.
    In a recent paper I argued that agent causation theorists should be compatibilists. In this paper, I argue that compatibilists should be agent causation theorists. I consider six of the main problems facing compatibilism: (i) the powerful intuition that one can't be responsible for actions that were somehow determined before one was born; (ii) Peter van Inwagen's modal argument, involving the inference rule (β); (iii) the objection to compatibilism that is based on claiming that the ability to do otherwise is (...)
  15. added 2018-02-16
    Agents, Causes, and Events: Essays on Indeterminism and Free Will.Timothy O'Connor (ed.) - 1995 - Oxford University Press.
    Many philosophers are persuaded by familiar arguments that free will is incompatible with causal determinism. Yet, notoriously, past attempts to articulate how the right type of indeterminism might secure the capacity for autonomous action have generally been regarded as either demonstrably inadequate or irremediably obscure. This volume gathers together the most significant recent discussions concerning the prospects for devising a satisfactory indeterministic account of freedom of action. These essays give greater precision to traditional formulations of the problems associated with indeterministic (...)
  16. added 2018-02-14
    Excusing Sinners and Blaming God: A Calvinist Assessment of Determinism, Moral Responsibility, and Divine Involvement in Evil.Guillaume Bignon - 2017 - Eugene: Pickwick Publications.
  17. added 2017-12-29
    On Flew’s Compatibilism and His Objections to Theistic Libertarianism.Hakan Gundogdu - 2015 - Kaygı Uludağ University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Journal of Philosophy 25:115-142.
    Flew strongly defends a compatibilist thesis in the free will debate before going on to totally object to theistic libertarianism. His objections basically rely on his compatibilism embracing the notion of agent causation, which is not very common in compatibilist theses. Since he is a strong proponent of ordinary language philosophy, he also holds that linguistic analyses can certainly solve the free will problem as well as many other problems of philosophy. In doing so, he first uses the paradigm cases (...)
  18. added 2017-12-12
    Conscious Willing and the Emerging Sciences of Brain and Behavior.Timothy O'Connor - 2009 - In Nancey Murphy, George Ellis, O. ’Connor F. R. & Timothy (eds.), Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will. Springer Verlag. pp. 173--186.
    Recent studies within neuroscience and cognitive psychology have explored the place of conscious willing in the generation of purposive action. Some have argued that certain findings indicate that the commonsensical view that we control many of our actions through conscious willing is largely or wholly illusory. I rebut such arguments, contending that they typically rest on a conflation of distinct phenomena. Nevertheless, I also suggest that traditional philosophical accounts of the will need to be revised: a raft of studies indicate (...)
  19. added 2017-12-12
    The Efficacy of Reasons: A Reply to Hendrickson.Timothy O'Connor - 2002 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (1):135-137.
    Noel Hendrickson, in “Against an Agent-Causal Theory of Action” (this volume), carefully and intelligently probes aspects of the agent-causal account of free will I present in Persons and Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will. The central target of his criticism is my contention that agent-causal events, by their very nature, cannot be caused. Here, I respond to his argument on this point.
  20. added 2017-12-11
    Probability and Freedom: A Reply to Vicens.Timothy O'Connor - 2016 - Res Philosophica 93 (1):289-293.
    I have argued elsewhere that human free action is governed by objective probabilities. This view, I suggested, is strongly supported by our experience of motivated decision-making and by our having emerged from probabilistically-governed physical causes. Leigh Vicens (2016) criticizes these arguments. She also argues that an account of human freedom as probabilistically-unstructured indeterminacy is less vulnerable to challenges to the plausibility of libertarian views of freedom. In this article, I explain why I am not persuaded by Vicens’s arguments.
  21. added 2017-12-11
    Probability and Freedom.Timothy O'Connor - 2016 - Res Philosophica 93 (1):289-293.
    I have argued elsewhere that human free action is governed by objective probabilities. This view, I suggested, is strongly supported by our experience of motivated decision-making and by our having emerged from probabilistically-governed physical causes. Leigh Vicens criticizes these arguments. She also argues that an account of human freedom as probabilisticallyunstructured indeterminacy is less vulnerable to challenges to the plausibility of libertarian views of freedom. In this article, I explain why I am not persuaded by Vicens’s arguments.
  22. added 2017-11-07
    The Agent as Her Self: How Taking Agency Seriously Leads to Emergent Dualism.Maria Joana Rigato - 2016 - Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia 7 (1):48-60.
    : To act is to be the author of an intentional bodily movement. I will show that, in order for that authorship to be assured, the agent must both amount to more than the mereological sum of her mental or neural states and events, and have an irreducible causal power over, at least, some of them. Hence, agent-causalism is the best position for any realist about action to assume. I will contend that, contrary to what many have claimed, agent-causalism is (...)
  23. added 2017-10-30
    Indeterminism and Free Agency: Three Recent Views.Timothy O'Connor - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3):499-526.
    In recent years, as the enterprise of speculative metaphysics has attained a newfound measure of respectability, incompatibilist philosophers who are inclined to think that freedom of action is not only possible, but actual, have re-emerged to take on the formidable task of providing a satisfactory indeterministic account of the connections among an agent's freedom to do otherwise, her reasons, and her control over her act. In this paper, I want to examine three of these proposals, all of which give novel (...)
  24. added 2017-09-19
    Preconscious Free Will.Max Velmans - 2003 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 (12):42-61.
    This paper responds to continuing commentary on Velmans (2002a) “How could conscious experiences affect brains,” a target article for a special issue of JCS. I focus on the final question dealt with by the target article: how free will relates to preconscious and conscious mental processing, and I develop the case for preconscious free will. Although “preconscious free will” might appear to be a contradiction in terms, it is consistent with the scientific evidence and provides a parsimonious way to reconcile (...)
  25. added 2017-09-18
    Free Will, Agent Causation, and “Disappearing Agents”.Randolph Clarke - 2017 - Noûs.
    A growing number of philosophers now hold that agent causation is required for agency, or free will, or moral responsibility. To clarify what is at issue, this paper begins with a distinction between agent causation that is ontologically fundamental and agent causation that is reducible to or realized in causation by events or states. It is widely accepted that agency presents us with the latter; the view in question claims a need for the former. The paper then examines a “disappearing (...)
  26. added 2017-06-18
    An Asymmetrical Approach to Kant's Theory of Freedom.Benjamin Vilhauer - forthcoming - In Dai Heide and Evan Tiffany (ed.), The Idea of Freedom: New Essays on the Interpretation and Significance of Kant's Theory of Freedom.
    Asymmetry theories about free will and moral responsibility are a recent development in the long history of the free will debate. To my knowledge, Kant commentators have not yet explored the possibility of an asymmetrical reconstruction of Kant's theory of freedom, and that will be my goal here. By "free will", I mean the sort of control we would need to be morally responsible for our actions. Kant's term for it is "transcendental freedom", and he refers to the attribution of (...)
  27. added 2017-04-03
    Action and Purpose. [REVIEW]Raziel Abelson - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (6):178-192.
  28. added 2017-03-08
    Agency and Deontic Logic. [REVIEW]Paul Mcnamara - 2004 - Mind 113 (449):179-185.
  29. added 2017-02-10
    The Bounds of Agency: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics.Carole Rovane - 1998 - Princeton University Press.
    Carol Rovane argues that, as things stand, the debate is unresolvable since both sides hold coherent positions that our common sense will embrace.
  30. added 2017-02-09
    Thomas Reid on Freedom and Morality.James Manns - 1992 - Review of Metaphysics 45 (4):880-881.
  31. added 2017-02-09
    Act and Agent.V. R. M. - 1966 - Review of Metaphysics 20 (2):363-364.
  32. added 2017-02-08
    Agent Causality.John W. Yolton - 1966 - American Philosophical Quarterly 3 (1):14 - 26.
  33. added 2017-02-07
    Book Review:Thomas Reid on Freedom and Morality. William L. Rowe. [REVIEW]Stephen L. Darwall - 1993 - Ethics 103 (2):389-.
  34. added 2017-02-06
    'Strange Impotence of Men': Immaterialism, Anaemic Agents, and Immanent Causation.John Russell Roberts - 2010 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18 (3):411-431.
  35. added 2017-01-28
    Some Puzzles About Free Agency.Timothy William O'connor - 1992 - Dissertation, Cornell University
    I discuss several issues that concern human freedom of action. I begin by addressing the question of whether moral responsibility for one's actions and the consequences thereof requires that one have the capacity to have refrained from the action or to have prevented the ensuing consequence. Drawing to a significant extent on Peter van Inwagen's discussion of this matter, I defend certain forms of "alternative possibilities" conditions on moral responsibility against several recent objections, as well as point out a common (...)
  36. added 2017-01-28
    MACMURRAY, JOHN.-"The Self as Agent". [REVIEW]A. R. C. Duncan - 1961 - Philosophy 36:233.
  37. added 2017-01-27
    Idomenian Vision: The Empirical Basis of Thomas Reid’s Geometry of Visibles.Gerald Westheimer - 2016 - Topoi 35 (2):479-483.
    Thomas Reid claims to have learned of Idomenians, “an order of beings” in “sublunary regions” whose visual system is very much like ours except that they could detect only the direction of rays reaching their eyes, not the distance of origin. The properties of Idomenian vision are here examined in the light of the physiological optics of Reid’s time and of the scientific developments that have since augmented our knowledge of the discipline.
  38. added 2017-01-27
    The Agency Theory of Causality, Anthropomorphism, and Simultaneity.Marco Buzzoni - 2014 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 28 (4):375-395.
    The purpose of this article is to examine two important issues concerning the agency theory of causality: the charge of anthropomorphism and the relation of simultaneous causation. After a brief outline of the agency theory, sections 2–4 contain the refutation of the three main forms in which the charge of anthropomorphism is to be found in the literature. It will appear that it is necessary to distinguish between the subjective and the objective aspect of the concept of causation. This will (...)
  39. added 2017-01-27
    Causation and the Agent’s Point of View.Sebastián Álvarez Toledo - 2014 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 29 (1):133-147.
    There are philosophers who deny that causal relations actually exist in nature, arguing that they are merely a product of our perspective as beings capable of intentional actions. In this paper I briefly explain this thesis and consider that it needs to be complemented with a basic non-causal ontological perspective whichcan account for phenomena taken as causal; I then describe what seems to be a good candidate for such an ontology and finally conclude, however, that it cannot dispense with the (...)
  40. added 2017-01-25
    F. Castellani and J. Quitterer (Eds.), Agency and Causation in the Human Sciences.Marco Buzzoni - 2009 - Epistemologia 32 (1):162.
  41. added 2017-01-25
    Persons & Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will by Timothy O'Connor.A. A. Buckareff - 2003 - Auslegung 26 (1):69-76.
  42. added 2017-01-25
    A Whiteheadian Theory of the Agent Self.John Bennett - 1973 - Philosophy Today 17 (4):337-342.
  43. added 2017-01-24
    Controlling the Control and Strong Agent-Causal Libertarianism.Davor Pećnjak - 2010 - Prolegomena 9 (2):287-293.
    In this article I defend Strong Agent-Causal Libertarianism in O’Connor’s version against several objections raised by David Widerker. More specifically, I try to show that we can overcome difficulties raised by the question whether an agent has a control over controlling doing action E, by objection of possible nomically sufficient condition for obtaining of E and by objection of possible logically or metaphysically sufficient condition for obtaining of E.U ovom članku branim tzv. jaki djelovateljsko-uzročni libertarijanizam u verziji koju je dao (...)
  44. added 2017-01-23
    Emergence in Science and Philosophy * Edited by Antonella Corradini and Timothy O'Connor.W. Seager - 2012 - Analysis 72 (2):396-398.
  45. added 2017-01-23
    The Disappearing Agent Objection to Event-Causal Libertarianism.Derk Pereboom - 2012 - Philosophical Studies (1):1-11.
    The question I raise is whether Mark Balaguer’s event-causal libertarianism can withstand the disappearing agent objection. The concern is that with the causal role of the events antecedent to a decision already given, nothing settles whether the decision occurs, and so the agent does not settle whether the decision occurs. Thus it would seem that in this view the agent will not have the control in making decisions required for moral responsibility. I examine whether Balaguer’s position has the resources to (...)
  46. added 2017-01-22
    A Bergsonian View of Agent-Causation.Sigrid Sarnoff - 1985 - International Philosophical Quarterly 25 (2):185-196.
  47. added 2017-01-20
    Manifest Activity: Thomas Reid's Theory of Action.Gideon Yaffe - 2004 - Oxford University Press.
    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 (...)
  48. added 2017-01-20
    The Political Economy of Thomas Reid.Shinichi Nagao - 2003 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 1 (1):21-33.
  49. added 2017-01-20
    Agency and Necessity.Antony Flew - 1987 - Blackwell.
  50. added 2017-01-19
    Agent Causation as a Solution to the Problem of Action.Michael Brent - 2017 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (5):656-673.
    My primary aim is to defend a nonreductive solution to the problem of action. I argue that when you are performing an overt bodily action, you are playing an irreducible causal role in bringing about, sustaining, and controlling the movements of your body, a causal role best understood as an instance of agent causation. Thus, the solution that I defend employs a notion of agent causation, though emphatically not in defence of an account of free will, as most theories of (...)
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