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Summary The Causal Theory of Action (CTA) is often referred to as "the standard story" of human action and agency in the philosophy of action. Strictly speaking, it is misleading to think of the CTA as a single theory of action. A better way to think about the CTA is in terms of a set of theories that bear a family resemblance by accepting the following schema about what makes some behavior count as an action and what explains an action: Any behavior A (whether overt or mental) of an agent S is an action if and only if S's A-ing is caused in the right way and causally explained by some appropriate nonactional mental item(s) that mediate or constitute S's reasons for A-ing.
Key works Perhaps the touchstone essay for contemporary formulations of the CTA is Davidson 1963. For a review of the historical development of the CTA, including a discussion of the refinements of the CTA that have been offered, along with a survey of  some problems faced by the theory and proposed solutions, see the introductory essay in Aguilar & Buckareff 2010. For seminal recent refinements of the CTA, see Bishop 1989, Enç 2003, Mele 1992, Mele 2000, Mele 2003Stout 1996, and the essays in Aguilar & Buckareff 2010.
Introductions For an accessible introduction to options in the theory of action, including variants of CTA, see the introduction to Aguilar & Buckareff 2010 and Brand 1979.
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  1. added 2020-02-14
    Rationality and Causation in Action.Tomoyuki Yamada - 2013 - Kagaku Tetsugaku 46 (2):1-16.
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  2. added 2020-02-12
    Natural Agency: An Essay on the Causal Theory of Action.Hugh J. McCann - 1992 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (4):1008-1010.
  3. added 2020-02-12
    Analytical Philosophy of Action.Lawrence H. Davis - 1976 - Journal of Philosophy 73 (4):99-107.
  4. added 2020-02-12
    A Theory of Human Action.Myles Brand - 1972 - Journal of Philosophy 69 (9):249-257.
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  5. added 2020-02-11
    Causing Actions.Jennifer Hornsby - 2002 - Mind 111 (441):159-161.
    Some of the claims of Paul Petroski's _Causing Actions_ are discussed in this review of the book.
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  6. added 2020-02-11
    Explaining Human Action.John Bishop - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3):726-731.
  7. added 2020-01-19
    Motor Imagery and Action Execution.Bence Nanay - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    What triggers the execution of actions? What happens in that moment when an action is triggered? What mental state is there at the moment of action-execution that was not there a second before? My aim is to highlight the importance of a thus far largely ignored kind of mental state in the discussion of these old and much-debated questions: motor imagery. While there have been a fair amount of research in psychology and neuroscience on motor imagery in the last 30 (...)
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  8. added 2019-10-18
    The Problem of Action.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1978 - American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (2):157-162.
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  9. added 2019-10-06
    Agents in Action.Ralf Stoecker - 2001 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 61 (1):21-42.
  10. added 2019-07-25
    Charles, D., "Aristotle s Philosophy of Action". [REVIEW]M. Woods - 1986 - Mind 95:140.
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  11. added 2019-07-25
    Aristotle's Theory of Action.George Philip Webb - 1969 - Dissertation, University of Washington
  12. 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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  13. added 2019-06-07
    Sven Walter et Heinz-Dieter Heckmann , Physicalism and mental causation : The Metaphysics of Mind and Action, Exeter et Charlottesville, Imprint Academic, 2003, 362 pages. [REVIEW]François Loth - 2005 - Philosophiques 32 (2):479-483.
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  14. added 2019-06-06
    Interpersonal Interactions and the Bounds of Agency.Jesús H. Aguilar - 2007 - Dialectica 61 (2):219-234.
    According to the Causal Theory of Action, actions are causally produced events and causal transitivity seems to apply to all such events. However, strong intuitions support the idea that actions cannot be transitively caused. This is a tension that has plagued this theory’s effort to account for action. In particular, it has fueled a serious objection suggesting that this theory of action seriously distorts the attribution of agency when two agents interact with each other. Based on Donald Davidson’s analysis of (...)
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  15. added 2019-06-06
    Causalisms Reconsidered.Andrei A. Buckareff & Jing Zhu - 2004 - Dialogue 43 (1):147-156.
    In “Considering Causalisms”, Andrew Sneddon critically examines causalism, the dominant position in action theory since Donald Davidson published his influential article, “Actions, Reasons, and Causes”. Sneddon’s analysis is based on a distinction he makes between two kinds of causalism. One is a minimal version of causalism, which holds only a causal view of reasons explanations. Sneddon calls it “restricted-causalism,” or causalismR.
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  16. added 2019-06-06
    Desires, Reasons, and Causes.Stephen Darwall - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (2):436-443.
    Jonathan Dancy’s Practical Reality makes a significant contribution to clarifying the relationship between desire and reasons for acting, both the normative reasons we seek in deliberation and the motivating reasons we cite in explanation. About the former, Dancy argues that, not only are normative reasons not all grounded in desires, but, more radically, the fact that one desires something is never itself a normative reason. And he argues that desires fail to figure in motivating reasons also, concluding that neither the (...)
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  17. added 2019-06-06
    Psychologism and Humeanism: Review of Dancy's Practical Reality.Wayne A. Davis - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (2):452-459.
    In Practical Reality, Jonathan Dancy argues that our reasons for action are not psychological states, but things we take to be facts about the world, and shows that the reasons themselves are not causes. Dancy concludes that intentional actions are not explained by beliefs and desires, and that explanations of action in terms of reasons are not causal explanations. I show that these further conclusions are unwarranted by sketching an alternative theory of reasons according to which what it is for (...)
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  18. added 2019-06-06
    Savoir-Faire. Contribution À Une Théorie Dispositionnelle de L’Action. [REVIEW]Marc Neuberg - 2000 - Dialogue 39 (2):422-423.
    Certaines de nos explications d’action invoquent des dispositions. D’autres pas, et c’est le cas de la plupart: montrer qu’une action répond, dans le chef de l’agent, à un besoin physiologique ou à un état d’activation émotionnel, à une envie, vague ou structurée, à un désir ou à une intention, c’est en donner une explication valable, à première vue. Cependant, ressentir une envie ou vouloir réaliser un projet, avoir faim, avoir peur ou être en colère, s’ils «disposent» la personne à agir, (...)
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  19. added 2019-06-06
    Is Davidson’s Theory of Action Consistent?Robert Murray - 1995 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 25 (3):317-334.
    According to a familiar objection to Davidson's causal theory of action, reasons are not causes qua reasons unless explanations of actions fit reason and action into a nomic nexus. The focus of this criticism should really be redirected to the issue of whether or not Davidson's theory provides an account of the explanatory force of explanations of actions.
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  20. added 2019-06-06
    Mental Causation.John Heil & Alfred Mele (eds.) - 1993 - Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    Common sense and philosophical tradition agree that mind makes a difference. What we do depends not only on how our bodies are put together, but also on what we think. Explaining how mind can make a difference has proved challenging, however. Some have urged that the project faces an insurmountable dilemma: either we concede that mentalistic explanations of behavior have only a pragmatic standing or we abandon our conception of the physical domain as causally autonomous. Although each option has its (...)
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  21. added 2019-06-06
    Review of Springs of Action: Understanding Intentional Behavior. [REVIEW]Michael J. Zimmerman - 1993 - Ethics 103 (4):839-841.
  22. added 2019-06-06
    Tertiary Waywardness Tamed.Frederick Adams - 1989 - Critica 21 (61):117-125.
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  23. added 2019-06-06
    An Essay on Human Action.Carl Ginet & Michael J. Zimmerman - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (1):114.
  24. added 2019-06-06
    Brand on Intending and Acting1.Haig Khatchadourian - 1986 - Metaphilosophy 17 (4):371-378.
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  25. added 2019-06-06
    Theory of Action. [REVIEW]M. M. - 1982 - Review of Metaphysics 35 (4):864-865.
    This book deals with central topics in the theory of action: the nature of action, ability and intention, the explanation of actions, and finally autonomy and responsibility. However, it is no mere simplified summary of the field for philosophical beginners. Rather, the summary is usually fairly sophisticated and always preparation for the presentation and defense of the author's own views. As such the book can be recommended not only as an excellent introduction to action theory, but also as an upper-level (...)
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  26. added 2019-06-06
    Essays on Actions and Events. [REVIEW]C. D. A. - 1981 - Review of Metaphysics 35 (1):122-123.
    The fifteen essays which comprise this book are unified by an unmistakable philosophical voice, and addressed to an interlocking set of concepts: cause, law, event, action, feeling, freedom, and intention. Collectively they trace the loops and bights of the Welt-Knotte, where the physical and the psychological orders tie. But the book is more than a collection of bright inter-referential papers by a clever man, and its existence is justified by something greater than the value of having them bound conveniently together. (...)
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  27. added 2019-06-06
    The Practical Syllogism and Deliberation in Aristotle’s Causal Theory of Action.Alfred R. Mele - 1981 - New Scholasticism 55 (3):281-316.
    In the present paper, I want to contribute to a correct understanding of Aristotle's action theory by explaining just how two of the key concepts which it involves are connected and by showing that, contrary to what a number of commentators have said, there are causal concepts. The concepts in question are those of deliberation and the so-called "practical syllogism.".
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  28. added 2019-06-06
    The Appropiate Causation of Intentional Basic Actions.David Pears - 1975 - Critica 7 (20):39-72.
  29. added 2019-06-06
    Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
    What is the relation between a reason and an action when the reason explains the action by giving the agent's reason for doing what he did? We may call such explanations rationalizations, and say that the reason rationalizes the action. In this paper I want to defend the ancient - and common-sense - position that rationalization is a species of ordinary causal explanation. The defense no doubt requires some redeployment, but not more or less complete abandonment of the position, as (...)
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  30. added 2019-06-05
    Aguilar, Jesùs, and Buckareff, Andrei, Eds. Causing Human Actions: New Perspectives on the Causal Theory of Action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010. Pp. 336. $35.00. [REVIEW]Scott Sehon - 2011 - Ethics 122 (1):168-174.
  31. added 2019-06-05
    Alfred R. Mele, Motivation and Agency: Mele, Alfred R. Motivation and Agency. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Pp. 264. $49.95 (Cloth).G. F. Schueler - 2004 - Ethics 115 (1):145-148.
  32. added 2019-06-05
    The Active and the Passive: David -Hillel Ruben.David-Hillel Ruben - 1997 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 71 (1):229-246.
    How to draw the distinction between activity and passivity? Whatever that might be, the causal theory of action cannot give the right answer, as it offers an essentially passive account of human action.
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  33. added 2019-01-31
    How We Act: Causes, Reasons, and Intentions. [REVIEW]Jing Zhu - 2005 - Disputatio 1 (19):277-282.
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  34. added 2018-10-08
    Acting on a Ground : Reasons, Rational Motivation, and Explanation.Magnus Frei - 2016 - Dissertation, Fribourg
    When someone does something for a reason, what are the reasons for which she does what she does? What is her ‘motivating reason’, as it is sometimes put? The simple answer is: it depends on what is meant by ‘motivating reason’. Non-Psychologists hold that motivating reasons are what the agent believes. I have shown that given that we understand ‘motivating reasons’ as what I term 'grounds', this is quite correct, as what we believe is what plays the role of a (...)
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  35. added 2018-08-04
    The Metaphysics of Action: Trying, Doing, Causing.David-Hillel Ruben - 2018 - London: Palgrave Macmillan.
    A discussion of three central ideas in action theory; trying to act, doing or acting, one's action causing further consequences.
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  36. added 2018-06-29
    Rational and Social Agency: The Philosophy of Michael Bratman, Edited by Manuel Vargas and Gideon Yaffe.Michael Brent - 2018 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 15 (3):371-374.
  37. added 2018-05-16
    Actions and Other Events: The Unifier-Multiplier Controversy Karl Pfeifer New York: Peter Lang, 1989. Vi + 203 Pp. US$24.95. [REVIEW]Charles Ripley - 1995 - Dialogue 34 (1):190-.
  38. added 2018-04-11
    Towards a Convincing Account of Intention.Niel Henk Conradie - 2014 - Dissertation, University of Stellenbosch
    Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.
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  39. 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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  40. added 2018-03-13
    Ações, razões e causas.D. Davidson & Marcelo Fischborn - 2012 - Critica:NA.
    Qual é a relação entre uma razão e uma ação quando a razão explica a ação, dando a razão do agente para fazer o que fez? Podemos chamar tais explicações de racionalizações, e dizer que a razão racionaliza a ação. Neste artigo quero defender a posição antiga — e de senso comum — de que a racionalização é uma espécie de explicação causal b. A defesa sem dúvida exige alguma reelaboração, mas não parece necessário abandonar a posição, como muitos autores (...)
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  41. 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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  42. added 2018-03-12
    Intentional Behavior.Frederick Stoutland - 1983 - Noûs 17 (1):76.
  43. added 2018-03-07
    Bodily Movement and Its Significance.Will Small - 2016 - Philosophical Topics 44 (1):183-206.
    I trace the development of one aspect of Fred Stoutland’s thought about action by considering the central role given by contemporary philosophy of action to bodily movement. Those who tell the so-called standard story of action think that actions are bodily movements caused by beliefs and desires, that cause further effects in the world in virtue of which they can be described. Those who hold a disjunctive conception of bodily movement think that actions are bodily movements that involve intentions essentially, (...)
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  44. added 2018-03-05
    La Catena Delle Cause: Determinismo E Antideterminismo Nel Pensiero Antico E Contemporaneo.Carlo Natali & Stefano Maso (eds.) - 2005 - Amsterdam: Hakkert.
    The volume contains 11 contributions of the best experts on the topics of fate, fortune and free will, in reference to Ancient Philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Plotinus.
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  45. added 2018-02-18
    Action.Rowland Stout - 2005 - Routledge.
    The traditional focus of debate in philosophy of action has been the causal theory of action and metaphysical questions about the nature of actions as events. In this lucid and lively introduction to philosophy of action, Rowland Stout shows how these issues are subsidiary to more central ones that concern the freedom of the will, practical rationality and moral psychology. When seen in these terms, agency becomes one of the most exciting areas in philosophy and one of the most useful (...)
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  46. added 2018-02-17
    A Cause for Concern: Reasons, Causes and Explanations.Daniel Hutto - 1999 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 59 (2):381-401.
    This paper argues against causalism about reasons in three stages. First, the paper investigates Professor Davidson's sophisticated version of the claim that we must understand reason-explanations as a kind of causal explanation to highlight the fact that this move does no explanatory work in telling us how we determine for which reasons we act. Second, the paper considers Davidson's true motivation for regarding reasons-explanations as causal which connects with his claim that reasons are causes. He advocates anomalous monism in order (...)
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  47. added 2018-02-17
    Reason and Causation in Davidson's Theory of Action Explanation.Carlos J. Moya - 1998 - Critica 30 (89):29-43.
    En la concepcion de Davidson, las explicaciones de la accion en terminos de razones incluyen dos aspectos o condiciones independientes entre si: una condicion de racionalidad o justificacion racional y una condicion causal. La satisfaccion de la primera depende de relaciones logicas apropiadas entre las descripciones de la razon y de la accion. La segunda exige unicamente la existencia de un vinculo causal entre razon y accion. Es esta independencia entre las dos condiciones la que, en nuestra opinion, genera en (...)
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  48. added 2018-02-17
    Causal deviancy and multiple intentions: a reply to James Montmarquet.John Bishop - 1985 - Analysis 45 (3):163.
  49. added 2018-02-09
    The Logic of Intending and Predicting.David Botting - 2017 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 31 (3):1-24.
    Can human acts be causally explained in the same way as the rest of nature? If so, causal explanation in the manner of the Hempelian model should fit the human sciences and the natural sciences equally. This is not so much a question of whether the Hempelian model is a completely adequate account of causal explanation, but about whether it is adequate or inadequate in the same way for each: if there is some unique feature of human acts that dictates (...)
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  50. added 2018-02-02
    Alvin I. Goldman, a Theory of Human Action.Joseph Margolis - 1974 - Metaphilosophy 5 (4):348–364.
1 — 50 / 704