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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 2020-03-10
    Moving Stories: Agency, Emotion and Practical Rationality.Dave Ward - 2019 - In Laura Candiotto (ed.), The Value of Emotions for Knowledge. Springer Verlag.
    What is it to be an agent? One influential line of thought, endorsed by G. E. M. Anscombe and David Velleman, among others, holds that agency depends on practical rationality—the ability to act for reasons, rather than being merely moved by causes. Over the past 25 years, Velleman has argued compellingly for a distinctive view of agency and the practical rationality with which he associates it. On Velleman’s conception, being an agent consists in having the capacity to be motivated by (...)
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  2. added 2020-02-11
    Agency and Deontic Logic.Paul Mcnamara - 2004 - Mind 113 (449):179-185.
  3. added 2020-02-11
    Persons and Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will.John Martin Fischer - 2001 - Mind 110 (438):526-531.
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  4. added 2020-01-15
    Free Will of an Ontologically Open Mind.Jan Scheffel - manuscript
    The problem of free will has persistently resisted a solution throughout centuries. We argue here that new elements need be introduced in order to approach a solution. In this physicalistic approach, these elements are emergence and information theory in relation to universal limits set by quantum mechanics. Furthermore, the vague characterization "to be able to act differently" is, in the spirit of Carnap, rephrased into a formulation being more suitable for scientific analysis. It is argued that the mind is an (...)
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  5. added 2019-11-08
    Agency and Action.John Hyman & Helen Steward (eds.) - 2003 - Cambridge University Press.
    One of the most exciting developments in philosophy in the last fifty years is the resurgence in the philosophy of action. The concept of action now occupies a central place in ethics, metaphysics and jurisprudence. This collection of original essays, by some of the most astute and influential philosophers working in this area, covers the entire range of the philosophy of action. Topics covered include the nature of actions themselves; how the concepts of act, agent, cause and event are related (...)
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  6. added 2019-06-11
    Rational Action: Reasons, Causes, and Choices.David Redmond - 2010 - Dissertation, University of Missouri, St. Louis
    I argue that agents, by exercising their wills, cause action-results and that volitions or willings are uncaused basic actions. I motivate the existence of volitions by highlighting the important role they play in providing an answer to Wittgenstein's famous question, “What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?” That volitions do not have action-results is central to my argument. This has as a consequence that volitions are (...)
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  7. added 2019-06-06
    ‘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.
  8. added 2019-06-06
    Agent Causation and Responsibility: A Reply to Flint.Michael Bergmann - 2003 - Faith and Philosophy 20 (2):229-235.
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  9. added 2019-06-06
    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.
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  10. added 2019-06-06
    Freedom and Experience: Self-Determination Without Illusions.Magill Kevin - 1997 - London: author open access, originally MacMillan.
    Most of us take it for granted that we are free agents: that we can sometimes act so as to shape our own lives and those of others, that we have choices about how to do so and that we are responsible for what we do. But are we really justified in believing this? For centuries philosophers have argued about whether free will and moral responsibility are compatible with determinism or natural causation, and they seem no closer to agreeing about (...)
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  11. added 2019-06-06
    In Defense of Free Will. By C. A. Campbell. [REVIEW]Lee C. Rice - 1968 - Modern Schoolman 46 (1):79-80.
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  12. added 2019-06-05
    Causation and the Agent’s Point of View.Sebastián Álvarez - 2014 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 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 which can 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 (...)
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  13. added 2019-06-05
    Review of James Swindal, Action and Existence: A Case for Agent CausationSwindalJames, Action and Existence: A Case for Agent Causation, New York: Palgrave Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-230-29667-1, 216 Pp. [REVIEW]Paul Van Rooy - 2013 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 39 (7):717-722.
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  14. added 2019-05-31
    Free Will, Moral Responsibility, and the Problem of “OOMPH”.William L. Rowe - 2006 - Journal of Ethics 10 (3):295-313.
    Thomas Reid developed an important theory of freedom and moral responsibility resting on the concept of agent-causation, by which he meant the power of a rational agent to cause or not cause a volition resulting in an action. He held that this power is limited in that occasions occur when one's emotions or other forces may preclude its exercise. John Martin Fischer has raised an objection – the not enough ‘Oomph’ objection – against any incompatibilist account of freedom and moral (...)
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  15. added 2019-04-08
    A Compatibilist Version Of The Theory Of Agent Causation.Ned Markosian - 1999 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80 (3):257-277.
    The Theory of Agent Causation has always been formulated as an incompatibilist view, but I think that this has been a mistake. The aim of this paper is to argue that, contrary to what agent causation theorists and their opponents have always believed, the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is actually a compatibilist version of that theory. I formulate the traditional version of the Theory of Agent Causation, and consider a series of objections to it and (...)
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  16. added 2019-03-07
    Free Will and Mental Powers.Niels van Miltenburg & Dawa Ometto - forthcoming - Topoi:1-11.
    In this paper, we investigate how contemporary metaphysics of powers can further an understanding of agent-causal theories of free will. The recent upsurge of such ontologies of powers and the understanding of causation it affords promises to demystify the notion of an agent-causal power. However, as we argue pace, the very ubiquity of powers also poses a challenge to understanding in what sense exercises of an agent’s power to act could still be free—neither determined by external circumstances, nor random, but (...)
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  17. added 2019-03-04
    Agent Causation and Free Will: A Case for Libertarianism.Thad Botham - 2018 - In Lenny Clapp (ed.), Philosophy for Us. Cognella. pp. 49-58.
    Some people endorse a view called incompatibilism, which states that free will is incompatible with determinism. No free action could possibly be determined, they think. More informatively, incompatibilists think it is impossible that someone’s freely acting be causally guaranteed to happen by things that occur before she freely acts. Some people hold a view called libertarianism, which states both that incompatibilism is true and that someone actually performs a free action. Other people reject incompatibilism. They hold to compatibilism, which is (...)
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  18. added 2019-03-04
    Introduction: Free Will and Determinism.Thad Botham - 2012 - In What Might Be: Readings in Philosophy. Dubeque, USA: pp. 169-179.
    In this introduction we accomplish two things. First, we attempt to get clear about what we mean by the term 'free will'. Second, we introduce a philosophical puzzle known as the metaphysical problem of free will.
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  19. added 2019-03-04
    Agent-Causation Revisited: Origination and Contemporary Theories of Free Will.Thad Botham - 2008 - Berlin, Germany: Verlag D Müller.
    Sometimes you make a choice. Whether or not you made it was up to you. The choice was free. But how can this be? A scientific view of the world may leave no room for free choice. Free will literature continually explodes. Yet experts still focus on control or on a power to do otherwise. Sadly, they neglect another intuitive feature of free will: being an underived source or ultimate originator. When acting freely, one is a self-determined, self-directed, sole author (...)
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  20. added 2019-01-23
    Explaining Free Will.Michael Elstob - 2018 - Chesham, UK: C. M. Elstob. Printed and distributed by Amazon.
    A new approach using independence indeterminism, a novel naturalistic metaphysics for an open creative universe. -/- The problem of free will - what exactly it is, whether it is required for us to be morally responsible for our actions, and whether any natural being can possibly possess it - has remained unresolved for over 2000 years. -/- Now, starting from the very widely held belief that most change takes place in a way that is independent of how most other change (...)
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  21. added 2018-08-20
    Problems From Reid. [REVIEW]Rebecca Copenhaver - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (1):117-121.
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  22. 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 (...)
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  23. 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 (...)
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  24. 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 (...)
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  25. 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.
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  26. 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 (...)
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  27. 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 (...)
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  28. 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, (...)
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  29. 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 (...)
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  30. 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 (...)
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  31. added 2018-03-12
    Agency, Causality and Properties.Helen Steward - 2011 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 6 (3):390-401.
    The paper argues against the very commonly held view that whenever a substance may be said to be the cause of something, a fuller and metaphysically more accurate understanding of the situation can always be obtained by looking to the properties in virtue of which that substance was able to bring about the effect in question. Paul Humphreys’ argument that when a substance is said to have produced an effect, it always turns out to be an aspect or property of (...)
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  32. 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.
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  33. 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 (...)
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  34. 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 (...)
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  35. 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.
  36. 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 (...)
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  37. 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 (...)
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  38. 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 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.
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  39. 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 (...)
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  40. 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 (...)
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  41. 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 (...)
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  42. added 2017-09-18
    Free Will, Agent Causation, and “Disappearing Agents”.Randolph Clarke - 2017 - Noûs:76-96.
    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 (...)
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  43. added 2017-04-03
    Action and Purpose. [REVIEW]Raziel Abelson - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (6):178-192.
  44. 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.
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  45. added 2017-02-09
    Thomas Reid on Freedom and Morality.James Manns - 1992 - Review of Metaphysics 45 (4):880-881.
    This book is careful and insightful, both in its analysis of Reid and in its treatment of the question of free will. While the title might suggest a balance of attention between the issues of freedom and morality, in truth this is a book about freedom, and it is only because moral responsibility has long been linked with freedom that Reid's moral philosophy receives any attention.
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  46. added 2017-02-09
    Act and Agent.V. R. M. - 1966 - Review of Metaphysics 20 (2):363-364.
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  47. added 2017-02-08
    Agent Causality.John W. Yolton - 1966 - American Philosophical Quarterly 3 (1):14 - 26.
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  48. added 2017-02-07
    Book Review:Thomas Reid on Freedom and Morality. William L. Rowe. [REVIEW]Stephen L. Darwall - 1993 - Ethics 103 (2):389-.
  49. 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 (...)
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  50. added 2017-01-28
    MACMURRAY, JOHN.-"The Self as Agent". [REVIEW]A. R. C. Duncan - 1961 - Philosophy 36:233.
1 — 50 / 253