About this topic
Summary Mental actions can be understood in terms of agents and their cognitive capacities.  When an agent performs a mental action, she employs one or more of her cognitive capacities and thereby produces an effect of some kind.  Key questions about mental action include: Within the domain of the mental, what should be considered mental action? (Attending, imagining, judging, coming to believe, wishing, desiring, daydreaming, conscious awareness?)  In what ways is mental action different from or similar to bodily action?  How does one perform a mental action?  How does one come to know that one is performing a mental action?  Does mental action shed light on issues such as the mind-body problem, the plausibility of functionalism, or the nature of representational content?      
Key works

Classic discussions of mental action include James 1890, Ryle 1949, Geach 1957, Taylor 1963, and Williams 1970.  More recently, Strawson 2003 claims that the notion of mental action is severely limited in its applicability, and Buckareff 2005 argues that Strawson’s account is problematically restrictive.  Proust 2001 presents a definition of mental acts and defends their explanatory role, Hieronymi 2006 claims that the formation of beliefs and intentions is less than voluntary and thus differs from bodily action, McCall 1987 argues that deciding is an action, and Wu 2013 contends that, borrowing from the work of William James, conscious mental action is cognitive attention.  

Introductions O'Brien & Soteriou 2009.
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255 found
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  1. added 2020-04-19
    A Broomean Model of Rationality and Reasoning.Franz Dietrich, Antonios Staras & Robert Sugden - 2019 - Journal of Philosophy 116 (11):585-614.
    John Broome has developed an account of rationality and reasoning which gives philosophical foundations for choice theory and the psychology of rational agents. We formalize his account into a model that differs from ordinary choice-theoretic models through focusing on psychology and the reasoning process. Within that model, we ask Broome’s central question of whether reasoning can make us more rational: whether it allows us to acquire transitive preferences, consistent beliefs, non-akratic intentions, and so on. We identify three structural types of (...)
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  2. added 2020-02-28
    Handbook of Mental Control.Diane Tice & Roy Bauerster - 1993 - In Daniel M. Wegner & J. Pennebaker (eds.), Handbook of Mental Control. Prentice-Hall.
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  3. added 2019-09-09
    Active Desire.Uku Tooming - 2019 - Philosophical Psychology 32 (6):945-968.
    Desire is commonly understood as a mental state in relation to which we are passive. Since it seems to arise in us spontaneously, without antecedent deliberation, it also seems to constitute a paradigmatic type of mental state which is not up to us. In this paper, I will contest this idea. I will defend a view according to which we can actively shape our desires by controlling the way in which we imagine their contents. This view is supported both by (...)
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  4. added 2019-09-09
    Rational Inference: The Lowest Bounds.Cameron Buckner - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (3):697-724.
  5. added 2019-07-03
    Mental Action and the Conscious Mind.Michael Brent - forthcoming - Routledge.
  6. added 2019-06-24
    Two Kinds of Cognitive Expertise.Elijah Chudnoff - forthcoming - Noûs.
    Expertise is traditionally classified into perceptual, cognitive, and motor forms. I argue that the empirical research literature on expertise gives us compelling reasons to reject this traditional classification and accept an alternative. According to the alternative I support there is expertise in forming impressions, which further divides into expertise in forming sensory and intellectual impressions, and there is expertise in performing actions, which further divides into expertise in performing mental and bodily actions. The traditional category of cognitive expertise splits into (...)
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  7. added 2019-06-17
    How Reasoning Aims at Truth.David Horst - forthcoming - Noûs.
    Many hold that theoretical reasoning aims at truth. In this paper, I ask what it is for reasoning to be thus aim-directed. Standard answers to this question explain reasoning’s aim-directedness in terms of intentions, dispositions, or rule-following. I argue that, while these views contain important insights, they are not satisfactory. As an alternative, I introduce and defend a novel account: reasoning aims at truth in virtue of being the exercise of a distinctive kind of cognitive power, one that, unlike ordinary (...)
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  8. added 2019-06-06
    Mental Action. Edited by Lucy O'Brien and Matthew Soteriou. (Oxford UP, 2009. Pp. X + 286. Price £50.00).Andrei A. Buckareff - 2012 - Philosophical Quarterly 62 (247):401-403.
  9. added 2019-06-06
    Epistemological Skepticism(s) and Rational Self-Control.Brian Ribeiro - 2002 - The Monist 85 (3):468-477.
    In this paper I aim to do two things. First, I attempt to illustrate an interesting pattern of argument one can find in Hume's work. Next, I employ this Humean pattern of argument to show that IF there is a cogent and intuitive argument for any form of epistemological skepticism, which despite its cogency and intuitiveness has a unbelievable conclusion, THEN we lack a very important form of doxastic self-control, which I call rational self-control, over the beliefs problematized by that (...)
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  10. added 2019-06-06
    III.—The Psychology of Effort of Will.C. A. Campbell - 1939 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 40 (1):49-74.
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  11. added 2019-06-06
    I.—Mental Activity in Willing and in Ideas.S. Alexander - 1908 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 9 (1):1-40.
  12. added 2019-06-05
    Comment on Paul Boghossian, "What is Inference".Crispin Wright - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 169 (1):27-37.
    This is a response to Paul Boghossian’s paper: What is inference?. The paper and the abstract originate from a symposium at the Pacific Division Meeting of the APA in San Diego in April 2011. John Broome was a co-commentator.
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  13. added 2019-02-16
    Β. Inward Action.Gerardus Van der Leeuw - 1986 - In Religion in Essence and Manifestation. Princeton University Press. pp. 459-540.
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  14. added 2019-02-15
    Inference as Consciousness of Necessity.Eric Marcus - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    Consider the following three claims. (i) There are no truths of the form ‘p and ~p’. (ii) No one holds a belief of the form ‘p and ~p’. (iii) No one holds any pairs of beliefs of the form {p, ~p}. Irad Kimhi has recently argued, in effect, that each of these claims holds and holds with metaphysical necessity. Furthermore, he maintains that they are ultimately not distinct claims at all, but the same claim formulated in different ways. I find (...)
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  15. added 2018-11-07
    Belief as an Act of Reason.Nicholas Koziolek - 2018 - Manuscrito 41 (4):287-318.
    Most philosophers assume (often without argument) that belief is a mental state. Call their view the orthodoxy. In a pair of recent papers, Matthew Boyle has argued that the orthodoxy is mistaken: belief is not a state but (as I like to put it) an act of reason. I argue here that at least part of his disagreement with the orthodoxy rests on an equivocation. For to say that belief is an act of reason might mean either (i) that it’s (...)
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  16. added 2018-09-16
    Trust in the Guise of Belief.Anthony Robert Booth - 2018 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 26 (2):156-172.
    What kind of mental state is trust? It seems to have features that can lead one to think that it is a doxastic state but also features that can lead one to think that it is a non-doxastic state. This has even lead some philosophers to think that trust is a unique mental state that has both mind-to-world and world-to-mind direction of fit, or to give up on the idea that there is a univocal analysis of trust to be had. (...)
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  17. added 2018-09-01
    Self-Deception: A New Analysis.Tony Summer - 2018 - Charleston, SC, USA:
    This monograph presents a new analysis of the ‘straight’ self-deception that depends upon motivational bias as well as an account of the unstudied phenomenon of self-deception that is dependent on expectational bias. Cases of ‘twisted’ self deception are then explained as resulting from a conflict between motivational and expectational bias. In all cases, self-deception is shown to be an unintended result of an agent’s intentional activity directed at saving a theory toward which she is biased. The exposition is novel in (...)
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  18. added 2018-08-09
    Confessions of a Deluded Westerner.Michael Brent - 2018 - Journal of Buddhist Ethics 25:689-713.
    In this paper, I aim to make two general points. First, I claim that the discussions in Repetti (2017) assume different, sometimes conflicting, notions of free will, so the guiding question of the book is not as clear as it could be. Second, according to Buddhist tradition, the path to enlightenment requires rejecting the delusional belief in the existence of a persisting self. I claim that if there is no persisting self, there are no intentional actions; and, if there are (...)
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  19. added 2018-08-08
    Inner Speech: New Voices -- Introduction.Peter Langland-Hassan & Agustin Vicente - 2018 - In Peter Langland-Hassan & Agustin Vicente (eds.), Inner Speech: New Voices. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    This is the introductory chapter to the anthology: Inner Speech: New Voices, to be published in fall 2018 by OUP. It gives an overview of current debates in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience concerning inner speech, and situates the chapters of the volume with respect to those debates.
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  20. added 2018-08-07
    Act and Intentionality.Benjamin Sheredos - 2016 - Dissertation, University of California, San Diego
    Understanding the “intentionality” of mental phenomena is widely regarded as a key problem in philosophy of mind. Franz Brentano (along with his students, especially Edmund Husserl) is widely credited with bringing intentionality to philosophers’ attention. In early treatment by the Brentano school, intentionality is at least nominally understood as executed, brought about, or achieved in mental acts. And in the early 20th century, historians of psychology regarded this “act conception” of intentionality as integral for understanding the phenomenon. Yet the secondary (...)
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  21. added 2018-08-07
    Brentano's Act Psychology Was Not Aristotelian (or Else, Not Empirical).Benjamin Sheredos - 2016 - Brentano Studien 14:157-189.
  22. added 2018-07-17
    We Cannot Infer by Accepting Testimony.Ulf Hlobil - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (10):2589-2598.
    While we can judge and believe things by merely accepting testimony, we cannot make inferences by merely accepting testimony. A good theory of inference should explain this. The theories that are best suited to explain this fact seem to be theories that accept a so-called intuitional construal of Boghossian’s Taking Condition.
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  23. added 2018-07-01
    Aboutness in Imagination.Franz Berto - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (8):1871-1886.
    I present a formal theory of the logic and aboutness of imagination. Aboutness is understood as the relation between meaningful items and what they concern, as per Yablo and Fine’s works on the notion. Imagination is understood as per Chalmers’ positive conceivability: the intentional state of a subject who conceives that p by imagining a situation—a configuration of objects and properties—verifying p. So far aboutness theory has been developed mainly for linguistic representation, but it is natural to extend it to (...)
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  24. added 2018-05-30
    Review of David Hunter, 'Belief and Agency'. [REVIEW]Lubomira V. Radoilska - unknown
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  25. added 2018-05-29
    Meditation and the Scope of Mental Action.Michael Brent & Candace Upton - 2019 - Philosophical Psychology 32 (1):52-71.
    While philosophers of mind have devoted abundant time and attention to questions of content and consciousness, philosophical questions about the nature and scope of mental action have been relatively neglected. Galen Strawson’s account of mental action, arguably the most well-known extant account, holds that cognitive mental action consists in triggering the delivery of content to one’s field of consciousness. However, Strawson fails to recognize several distinct types of mental action that might not reduce to triggering content delivery. In this paper, (...)
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  26. added 2018-05-14
    Luminosity in the Stream of Consciousness.David Jenkins - forthcoming - Synthese:1-14.
    Williamson’s “anti-luminosity” argument aims to establish that there are no significant luminous conditions. “Far from forming a cognitive home”, luminous conditions are mere “curiosities”. Even supposing Williamson’s argument succeeds in showing that there are no significant luminous states his conclusion has not thereby been established. When it comes to determining what is luminous, mental events and processes are among the best candidates. It is events and processes, after all, which constitute the stream of consciousness. Judgment, for instance, is plausibly self-conscious. (...)
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  27. added 2018-03-23
    You Think You Think.Stephen Muires - 2018 - Charleston, USA: Flowing Books.
    This is a study in thinking according to, but not withheld by, traditional methods from the branch of philosophy called Experiential Philosophy. Philosophers are interested in the topic of thought, if no one else. Yet, thinking is what we do sixteen hours a day. Or, as this study will show, thinking is what is done to us sixteen hours a day. What is thinking? Why is it? And, who is in charge here anyway? The following book will enter these questions (...)
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  28. added 2018-03-22
    In Defense of Intuitions: A New Rationalist Manifesto.Andrew Chapman, Addison Ellis, Robert Hanna, Henry Pickford & Tyler Hildebrand - 2013 - London: Palgrave MacMillan.
    A reply to contemporary skepticism about intuitions and a priori knowledge, and a defense of neo-rationalism from a contemporary Kantian standpoint, focusing on the theory of rational intuitions and on solving the two core problems of justifying and explaining them.
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  29. added 2018-03-12
    Commitment and Action.A. Monga - 1976 - Indian Philosophical Quarterly 6 (2):333.
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  30. added 2018-03-06
    Functionalism and the Problem of Occurrent States.Gary Bartlett - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (270):1-20.
    In 1956 U. T. Place proposed that consciousness is a brain process. More attention should be paid to his word ‘process’. There is near-universal agreement that experiences are processive—as witnessed in the platitude that experiences are occurrent states. The abandonment of talk of brain processes has benefited functionalism, because a functional state, as it is usually conceived, cannot be a process. This point is dimly recognized in a well-known but little-discussed argument that conscious experiences cannot be functional states because the (...)
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  31. added 2018-03-05
    Inquiry and Belief.Jane Friedman - 2019 - Noûs 53 (2):296-315.
    In this paper I look at belief and degrees of belief through the lens of inquiry. I argue that belief and degrees of belief play different roles in inquiry. In particular I argue that belief is a “settling” attitude in a way that degrees of belief are not. Along the way I say more about what inquiring amounts to, argue for a central norm of inquiry connecting inquiry and belief and say more about just what it means to have an (...)
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  32. added 2018-02-18
    The Will to Believe: And Other Essays in Popular Philosophy.William James - 2014 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
    For this 1897 publication, the American philosopher William James brought together ten essays, some of which were originally talks given to Ivy League societies. Accessible to a broader audience, these non-technical essays illustrate the author's pragmatic approach to belief and morality, arguing for faith and action in spite of uncertainty. James thought his audiences suffered 'paralysis of their native capacity for faith' while awaiting scientific grounds for belief. His response consisted in an attitude of 'radical empiricism', which deals practically rather (...)
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  33. added 2018-02-17
    Empiricism, Stances, and the Problem of Voluntarism.Peter Baumann - 2011 - Synthese 178 (1):27-36.
    Voluntarism about beliefs is the view that persons can be free to choose their beliefs for non-epistemic (truth-related) reasons (cf. Williams 1973). One problem for belief voluntarism is that it can lead to Moore-paradoxality. The person might believe that -/- a.) there are also good epistemic reasons for her belief, or that b.) there are no epistemic reasons one way or the other, or that c.) there are good epistemic reasons against her belief. -/- If the person is aware of (...)
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  34. added 2018-02-16
    Doing Things in Your Head: A Philosophical Essay on Mental Action.Niko Eugenia Scharer - 1997 - Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada)
    John B. Watson distinguished between the objective study of human behavior and the subjective study of consciousness. Like Watson I hold that human behavior is the subject of psychology; but there are problems with Watson's distinction. First, most observable human behavior is itself conscious; and second, some conscious behavior does not involve overt movement at all. Many behaviors, indeed many actions, are performed 'in the head'. ;I advance a theory in which behavior is a single general kind; mental and overt (...)
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  35. added 2018-02-08
    The Role of Judgment in Doxastic Agency.David Jenkins - 2018 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 7 (1):12-19.
    We take it that we can exercise doxastic agency by reasoning and by making judgments. We take it, that is, that we can actively make up our minds by reasoning and judging. On what I call the ‘Standard View’ this is so because judgment can yield belief. It is typical to take it that judgments yield beliefs by causing them. But on the resultant understanding of the Standard View, I argue, it is unclear how judgment could play its role in (...)
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  36. added 2018-02-02
    On the Ability to Inhibit Thought and Action: General and Special Theories of an Act of Control.Gordon D. Logan, Trisha Van Zandt, Frederick Verbruggen & Eric-Jan Wagenmakers - 2014 - Psychological Review 121 (1):66-95.
  37. added 2017-12-19
    Towards a Definition of Efforts.Olivier Massin - 2017 - Motivation Science 3 (3):230-259.
    Although widely used across psychology, economics, and philosophy, the concept ofeffort is rarely ever defined. This article argues that the time is ripe to look for anexplicit general definition of effort, makes some proposals about how to arrive at thisdefinition, and suggests that a force-based approach is the most promising. Section 1presents an interdisciplinary overview of some chief research axes on effort, and arguesthat few, if any, general definitions have been proposed so far. Section 2 argues thatsuch a definition is (...)
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  38. added 2017-11-04
    Remembering as a Mental Action.Santiago Arango-Munoz & Juan Pablo Bermúdez - 2018 - In Kourken Michaelian, Dorothea Debus & Denis Perrin (eds.), New Directions in the Philosophy of Memory. Routledge. pp. 75-96.
    Many philosophers consider that memory is just a passive information retention and retrieval capacity. Some information and experiences are encoded, stored, and subsequently retrieved in a passive way, without any control or intervention on the subject’s part. In this paper, we will defend an active account of memory according to which remembering is a mental action and not merely a passive mental event. According to the reconstructive account, memory is an imaginative reconstruction of past experience. A key feature of the (...)
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  39. added 2017-09-13
    Could Phenomenal Consciousness Function as a Cognitive Unconscious?Max Velmans - 2002 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (3):357-358.
    Evidence for unconscious semantic representation suggests that a cognitive unconscious exists. Phenomenal consciousness cannot easily be shown to deal with complex cognitive operations such as those involved in language translation and creativity. A self-organising phenomenal consciousness that controls brain functions also runs into mind/body problems (well recognised in the consciousness studies literature) that Perruchet & Vinter must address.
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  40. added 2017-09-12
    THE HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE OF HUMAN COGNITION AND COMMUNNICATION: A COGNITIVE SCIENCE PERSPECTIVE OF THE UPANISHADS AND INDIAN PHILOSOPHICAL SYSTEMS.R. B. Varanasi Varanasi Varanasi Ramabrahmam, Ramabrahmam Varanasi, V. Ramabrahmam - 2016 - Science and Scientist Conference.
    The comprehensive nature of information and insight available in the Upanishads, the Indian philosophical systems like the Advaita Philosophy, Sabdabrahma Siddhanta, Sphota Vaada and the Shaddarsanas, in relation to the idea of human consciousness, mind and its functions, cognitive science and scheme of human cognition and communication are presented. All this is highlighted with vivid classification of conscious-, cognitive-, functional- states of mind; by differentiating cognition as a combination of cognitive agent, cognizing element, cognized element; formation; form and structure of (...)
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  41. added 2017-09-07
    Intrusive Uncertainty in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.Tom Cochrane & Keeley Heaton - 2017 - Mind and Language 32 (2):182-208.
    In this article we examine obsessive compulsive disorder. We examine and reject two existing models of this disorder: the Dysfunctional Belief Model and the Inference-Based Approach. Instead, we propose that the main distinctive characteristic of OCD is a hyperactive sub-personal signal of being in error, experienced by the individual as uncertainty about his or her intentional actions. This signalling interacts with the anxiety sensitivities of the individual to trigger conscious checking processes, including speculations about possible harms. We examine the implications (...)
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  42. added 2017-08-22
    Unity of Action in a Latin Social Model of the Trinity.Scott M. Williams - 2017 - Faith and Philosophy 34 (3):321-346.
    I develop a Latin Social model of the Trinity that is an extension of my previous article on indexicals and the Trinity. I focus on the theological desideratum of the necessity of the divine persons’ unity of action. After giving my account of this, I compare it with Swinburne’s and Hasker’s social models and Leftow’s non-social model. I argue that their accounts of the divine persons’ unity of action are theologically unsatisfactory and that this unsatisfactoriness derives from a modern conception (...)
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  43. added 2017-07-07
    The Problem of Mental Action.Thomas Metzinger - 2017 - Philosophy and Predicitive Processing.
    In mental action there is no motor output to be controlled and no sensory input vector that could be manipulated by bodily movement. It is therefore unclear whether this specific target phenomenon can be accommodated under the predictive processing framework at all, or if the concept of “active inference” can be adapted to this highly relevant explanatory domain. This contribution puts the phenomenon of mental action into explicit focus by introducing a set of novel conceptual instruments and developing a first (...)
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  44. added 2017-06-12
    The Conative Mind: Volition and Action.Jing Zhu - 2003 - Dissertation, University of Waterloo (Canada)
    This work is an attempt to restore volition as a respectable topic for scientific studies. Volition, traditionally conceived as the act of will, has been largely neglected in contemporary science and philosophy. I first develop a volitional theory of action by elaborating a unifying conception of volition, where volitions are construed as special kinds of mental action by which an agent consciously and actively bridge the gaps between deliberation, decision and intentional action. Then I argue that the major skeptical arguments (...)
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  45. added 2017-06-01
    Thought and Action.Errol Harris - 1959 - Review of Metaphysics 12 (3):449 - 461.
    We are nowadays so often reminded that we live in times of crisis that no controversy is likely to arise on that score, but the knowledge of its source and nature is not so easy to come by as the awareness of the fact. Macmurray is not the first to suggest that the crisis springs from the oversight or suppression of personality. Max Horkheimer, for instance, some years back deplored the submergence of the individual in a totalitarian mass civilization; but (...)
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  46. added 2017-05-31
    An Essay on Human Action.Carl Ginet & Michael J. Zimmerman - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (1):114.
  47. added 2017-05-31
    VII—Action.A. H. Hannay - 1942 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 42 (1):141-150.
  48. added 2017-05-29
    Review of On Action, by Carl Ginet.Richard Malpas - 1993 - Philosophical Review 102 (1):134.
  49. added 2017-05-18
    Agency and the Other: The Role of Agency for the Importance of Belief in Buddhist and Christian Traditions.Julia Cassaniti - 2012 - Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 40 (3):297-316.
  50. added 2017-05-18
    Choice: The Essential Element in Human Action.Alan Donagan - 1987 - 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 (...)
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