Biosemiotics deal with the study of signs and meanings in living entities. Constructivism considers human knowledge as internally constructed by sense making rather than passively reflecting a pre-existing reality. Consequently, a constructivist perspective on biosemiotics leads to look at an internal active construction of meaning in living entities from basic life to humans. That subject is addressed with an existing tool: the Meaning Generator System (MGS) which is a system submitted to an internal constraint related to the nature of the (...) agent containing it (biological or artificial). Simple organisms generate meanings to satisfy a “stay alive” constraint. More complex living entities manage meaningful representations with more elaborated constraints. The generated meanings are used by the agents to implement actions aimed at satisfying the constraints. The actions can be physical, biological or mental and take place in the agent or in its environment. The case of human agency is introduced with meaningful representations that may have allowed our ancestors to become self-conscious by representing themselves as existing entities. This paper proposes to use the MGS as a thread to address the above items linking biosemiotics to constructivism with relations to normativity, agency and autonomy. Possible continuations are introduced. (shrink)
It’s often assumed, especially in discussions of free will and moral responsibility, that unavoidable actions are possible. In recent years, however, several philosophers have questioned that assumption. Their views are considered here, and the possibility of unavoidable actions is defended and then applied to issues in action theory and in the literature on moral responsibility.
Is it possible to donate unpaired vital organs, foreseeing but not intending one’s own death? We argue that this is indeed psychologically possible, and thus far agree with Charles Camosy and Joseph Vukov in their recent paper on “double effect donation.” Where we disagree with these authors is that we see double-effect donation not as a morally praiseworthy act akin to mar- tyrdom but as a morally impermissible act that necessarily disrespects human bodily integrity. Respect for bodily integrity goes beyond (...) avoiding the aim to kill; not all side effects of deliberate bodily interventions can be outweighed by intended benefits for another even if the subject fully consents. It is not any necessary intention to kill or harm another or oneself that makes lethal donation/harvesting illicit but the more immediate intention to accept or perform surgery on an (innocent) person combined with the foresight of lethal harm and no health-related good for him or her. Double-effect donation falls foul of the first condition of double-effect reasoning in that the immediate act is wrong in itself. We argue further that the wider effects of such don- ation would be socially disastrous and corrupting of the medical profession: doctors should retain a sense of nonnegotiable respect for bodily integrity even when they intervene on willing subjects for the benefit of others. (shrink)
Does self-control require willpower? The question cuts to the heart of a debate about whether self-control is identical with some psychological process internal to the agents or not. Noticeably absent from these debates is systematic evidence about the folk-psychological category of self-control. Here, we present the results of two behavioral studies (N = 296) that indicate the structure of everyday use of the concept. In Study 1, participants rated the degree to which different strategies to respond to motivational conflict exemplify (...) self-control. Participants distinguished between intra-psychic and externally-scaffolded strategies and judged that the former exemplified self-control more than the latter. In Study 2, participants provided various solutions to manage motivational conflict and rated their proposals on effectiveness. Participants produced substantially more intra-psychic strategies, rated them as more effective, and advised them at a higher rate than externally-scaffolded strategies. Taken together, these results suggest that while people recognize a plurality of strategies as genuine instances of self-control, purely internal exercises of self-control are considered more prototypical than their externally-scaffolded counterparts. This implies a hierarchical structure for the folk psychological category of self-control. The concept encompasses a variety of regulatory strategies and organizes these strategies along a hierarchical continuum, with purely intra-psychic strategies at the center and scaffolded strategies in the periphery. (shrink)
The standard story about self-control states that self-control is limited, aversive, and that the function of self-control is to resist impulses or temptation. Several cases are provided that challenge this standard story. An alternative, future-oriented account of self-control is defended, where the function of self-control is to manage interference that arises from overlapping information processing pathways. This provides a computationally tractable account of self-control rooted in one’s being vigilant. Self-control manifests the maintenance dimension of vigilance. This not only provides an (...) attractive alternative to the standard story about self-control, but also indicates how the future-oriented aspects of self-control are more fundamental than the present-oriented aspects. (shrink)
Beau Branson rounds out the previous two chapters, by exploring the doctrine of inseparable operations ad extra in the writings of St Gregory of Nyssa. This doctrine says that all the activities of the three hypostases of the Trinity, at least insofar as they relate to things outside of (“ad extra”) the Trinity, are not only qualitatively identical but numerically identical. Importantly, Branson focuses his attention on Gregory’s theory of action and the individuation of events that emerges from his theological (...) defense of the doctrine of inseparable operations ad extra. Through a heavy engagement with contemporary metaphysics, Branson shows that Gregory’s philosophy of action is not only coherent, anticipating current trends in the ontology of actions and events, but may provide novel solutions to longstanding problems in this field. (shrink)
Donald Davidson’s causal theory of actions states that actions must be rationalized and caused by a belief-desire-pair. One problem of such a causal theory are cases of deviant causal chains. In these cases, the rationalized action is not caused in the right way but via a deviant causal chain. It therefore intuitively seems to be no action while all conditions of the causal theory are met. I argue that the problem of deviant causal chains can be solved by adding a (...) teleofunctionalist condition. This condition requires that the belief-desire pair that rationalizes an action must cause that action in a selection-historically normal way. I try to show that this additional condition drops counterintuitive cases of deviant causal chains out of the class of actions while being flexible enough to classify such cases as actions in which causal detours are intuitively permissible. (shrink)
My topic is the intelligent guidance of action. In this paper I offer an empirically grounded case for four ideas: that [a] cognitive processes of practical reasoning play a key role in the intelligent guidance of action, [b] these processes could not do so without significant enabling work done by both perception and the motor system, [c] the work done by perceptual and motor systems can be characterized as the generation of information specialized for action guidance, which in turn suggests (...) that [d] the cognitive processes of practical reasoning that play a key role in the guidance of intelligent action are not the abstract, syllogistic ones philosophers often treat as the paradigm of practical reasoning. Rather, these cognitive processes are constrained by, and work well with, the specialized concepts outputted by perception and the feedback outputted by sensorimotor processes. (shrink)
This paper presents a dilemma which it has been alleged by Kim Frost must be faced by any defender of the notion of a two-way power and offers a solution to the dilemma which is distinct from Frost’s own. The dilemma is as follows: assuming that powers are to be individuated by what they are powers to do or undergo, then either there is a unified description of the manifestation-type which individuates the power, or there is not. If there is, (...) then two-way powers are revealed really to be one-way powers, after all. If there is not, then it is difficult to explain why the two-way power does not simply dissolve into a mere combination of two one-way powers. The paper offers an account of what a two-way power is that is distinct from the one Frost takes for granted, and argues that this different conception is the key to avoiding the dilemma. It is also argued that this alternative conception has several further advantages over its rival and also that it has no less of a claim than Frost’s notion to be prefigured in Aristotle’s original discussion. (shrink)
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, (...) we argue that meditation provides a useful model for understanding a wider range of types of mental action than heretofore recognized. Conclusions yielded by two distinct bodies of current psychological research on meditation and cognition, and meditation and introspection, buttress meditation’s suitability for this role. (shrink)
According to the Guise of the Good, an agent only does for a reason what she sees as good. One of the main motivations for the view is its apparent ability to explain why action for a reason must be intelligible to its agent, for on this view, an action is intelligible just in case it seems good. This motivation has come under criticism in recent years. Most notably, Kieran Setiya has argued that merely seeing one’s action as good does (...) not suffice to make the action intelligible. In this paper, I show that this objection has bite only because the Guise of the Good’s theory of intelligibility has yet seen little sustained articulation. Properly understood, this theory holds that an action is intelligible to an agent only if it appears to them to possess some substantive evaluative property. I then argue that this response to the objection has a significant implication for contemporary Guise of the Good theories, for it shows that the currently ascendant version of the theory, the attitudinal theory, cannot avail itself of the intelligibility motivation. (shrink)
According to one interpretation of Aristotle’s famous thesis, to say that action is the conclusion of practical reasoning is to say that action is itself a judgment about what to do. A central motivation for the thesis is that it suggests a path for understanding the non-observational character of practical knowledge. If actions are judgments, then whatever explains an agent’s knowledge of the relevant judgment can explain her knowledge of the action. I call the approach to action that accepts Aristotle’s (...) thesis so understood Normativism. There are many reasons to doubt Normativism. My aim in this paper is to defend Normativism from a pair of arguments that purport to show that a normative judgment could not constitute an event in material reality and also the knowledge of such a happening. Both highlight a putative mismatch between the natures of, on the one hand, an agent’s knowledge of her normative judgment and, on the other, her knowledge of her own action. According to these objections, knowledge of action includes (a) perceptual knowledge and (b) knowledge of what one has already done. But knowledge of a normative judgment includes neither. Hence knowledge of action cannot simply be knowledge of a normative judgment. (shrink)
(Expected) adverse effects of the ‘ICT Revolution’ on work and opportunities for individuals to use and develop their capacities give a new impetus to the debate on the societal implications of technology and raise questions regarding the ‘responsibility’ of research and innovation (RRI) and the possibility of achieving ‘inclusive and sustainable society’. However, missing in this debate is an examination of a possible conflict between the quest for ‘inclusive and sustainable society’ and conventional economic principles guiding capital allocation (including the (...) funding of research and innovation). We propose that such conflict can be resolved by re-examining the nature and purpose of capital, and by recognising mainstream economics’ utilitarian foundations as an unduly restrictive subset of a wider Aristotelian understanding of choice. (shrink)
The problem of the time of a killing concerns exactly when and where to locate our actions. It is a problem for many of our actions beyond killing, and there are versions of the problem that can be raised no matter where your theory locates actions in particular. To answer the problem, I claim that we should be guided to the referent of ‘the killing’ by examining the definition of ‘to kill.’ Once we have the correct definition, we can see (...) that there are several candidate events that might be the referent of ‘the killing,’ but that the definition does not determine which of them is the referent. So, I argue that it is indeterminate or vague which event is ‘the killing.’ This solution is general across many action verbs, appeals to a minimally controversial type of vagueness, avoids the unintuitive results of views that determinately locate killings, and is compatible with different views about the location of actions. In the concluding section, I show how appealing to vagueness is distinct from and superior to appealing to ambiguity. (shrink)
Process, Action, and Experience offers a radical new approach to the philosophy of mind and action, taking processes to be the central subject matter. An international team of contributors consider what kinds of things processes are, and explore the progressive nature of action and conscious experience.
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 (...) agent causation are. Rather, I argue that the notion of agent causation introduced here best explains how it is that you are making your body move during an action, thereby providing a satisfactory solution to the problem of action. (shrink)
Kirk Ludwig presents a philosophical account of institutional action, such as action by corporations and nation states, arguing that it can be understood exhaustively in terms of the agency of individuals and concepts constructed out of materials that are already at play in our understanding of individual action. He thus argues for a strong form of methodological individualism. The book provides a new account of the logical form of grammatically singular group action sentences (e.g. 'Company laid off 10,000 workers'), and (...) features new analyses of the concepts of a constitutive rule, status function, status role, collective acceptance, and proxy agency. He also provides an analysis of the structure of corporate action, including the status of corporations as legal persons, and of the nature of state action in relation to its citizens. This is the companion volume to From Individual to Plural Agency (OUP 2016), extending the multiple-agents account of collective action set out in the earlier volume. (shrink)
Although scholarship in philosophy of action has grown in recent years, there has been little work explicitly dealing with the role of time in agency, a role with great significance for the study of action. As the articles in this collection demonstrate, virtually every fundamental issue in the philosophy of action involves considerations of time. The four sections of this volume address the metaphysics of action, diachronic practical rationality, the relation between deliberation and action, and the phenomenology of agency, providing (...) an overview of the central developments in each area with an emphasis on the role of temporality. Including contributions by established, rising, and new voices in the field, _Time and the Philosophy of Action _brings analytic work in philosophy of action together with contributions from continental philosophy and cognitive science to elaborate the central thesis that agency not only develops in time but is shaped by it at every level. (shrink)
In re-examining the concepts of desire, intention, and trying, David K. Chan brings a fresh approach toward resolving many of the problems that have occupied philosophers of action for almost a century. This book not only presents a complete theory of human agency but also, by developing the conceptual tools needed to do moral philosophy, lays the groundwork for formulating an ethics that is rooted in a clear, intuitive, and coherent moral psychology.
This paper criticizes two closely connected rationalist views about human agency. The first of these views, rationalism about agential control, claims that the capacities for agential control in normal adult human beings are rational capacities. The second view, rationalism about action, claims that the capacities for agential control in virtue of which the things we do count as our actions are rational capacities. The arguments of the paper focus on aspects of technical skills that control integral details of skillful action, (...) like the details of a baseball player’s pitching technique. I argue that these aspects of technical skills are largely non-rational capacities, but are nonetheless capacities for agential control, and can help make the things we do count as actions. While rational capacities do have a central role in human agency, their importance should not lead us to neglect the significant constitutive role of non-rational capacities in our agency. (shrink)
What I shall do in this paper is to propose an analysis of ‘Agent P tries to A’ in terms of a subjunctive conditional, that avoids some of the problems that beset most alternative accounts of trying, which I call ‘referential views’. They are so-named because on these alternative accounts, ‘P tries to A’ entails that there is a trying to A by P, and therefore the expression ‘P’s trying to A’ can occur in the subject of a sentence and (...) be used to refer to a particular, namely an act or event of trying. A conditional account such as mine avoids having to answer questions about those alleged particulars, for example their location and their causal relation to physical actions, or alternatively their identity to physical actions. In brief, the analysis I propose eschews any need to quantify over any sort of trying particulars. I both clarify the proposal and deal with five possible objections to it: metaphysically impossible actions: cases of finking and reverse-cycle finking; the empirical emptiness of preventers and blockers; proximate intentions and trying; and alleged explanatory loss. (shrink)
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 (arm raisings, leg bendings, etc.) caused by beliefs and desires, that cause further effects in the world (switch flippings, door movements, etc.) in virtue of which they can be described (as flippings of switches, shuttings of doors, etc.). Those (...) who hold a disjunctive conception of bodily movement think that actions are bodily movements that involve intentions essentially, but they too think that when an agent raises a glass, there is an action (an arm raising, perhaps) that causes a distinct event (a glass rising), in virtue of which the action (= the bodily movement) may be redescribed as a raising of a glass. Against both views, it might be held that actions may constitutively involve the changes wrought on their patients—that action is, in the first instance, transaction. But if action consists fundamentally not in an agent’s moving herself, but in her moving (or otherwise changing) something else, then how should we think about the nature and philosophical significance of bodily movement? (shrink)
Arguing first that the best way to understand what a continuant is is as something that primarily has its properties at a time rather than atemporally, the paper then defends the idea that there are occurrent continuants. These are things that were, are, or will be happening—like the ongoing process of someone reading or my writing this paper, for instance. A recently popular philosophical view of process is as something that is referred to with mass nouns and not count nouns. (...) This has mistakenly encouraged the view that the only way to think of process is as the stuff of events, and has obscured the possibility of thinking of processes as individual continuants. (shrink)
Catholic sexual ethics proposes a number of exceptionless moral norms. This distinguishes it from theories which deny the possibility of any exceptionless moral norms (e.g. the proportionalist approach proposed in the aftermath of "Humanae Vitae" and condemned in "Veritatis Splendor"). I argue that Catholic teaching on sexual ethics refers to chosen physical structures in such a way as to make ‘new natural law’ theory inherently unstable. I outline a theory of “the moral act” (Veritatis Splendor 78) which emphasises the place (...) which chosen physical features – in particular, chosen sexual structures – play in specifying human actions. I conclude that this account, involving what I term UMDAs, is needed to make sense of the Church’s teaching in these areas. (shrink)
Although scholarship in philosophy of action has grown in recent years, there has been little work explicitly dealing with the role of time in agency—a role with great significance for the study of action theory. As the articles in this collection demonstrate, virtually every fundamental issue in the philosophy of action involves considerations of time. The four sections of this volume address the metaphysics of action, diachronic practical rationality, the relation between deliberation and action, and the phenomenology of agency, providing (...) an overview of the central developments in each area with an emphasis on the role of temporality. Including contributions by established, rising, and new voices in the field, _Agency Through Time _brings together analytic work in philosophy of action together with contributions from continental philosophy, and also acknowledges the growing influence of the Pittsburgh school in recent developments in action theory. (shrink)
The paper discusses the view of William James on the contribution of will to our decisions to act. According to James, our voluntary action, which for him is strongly connected with an intention to do something, occurs when the subject of the action knows its sensorimotor effects. An attempt has been made to defend James’ view and rebut popular criticisms aiming to undermine the role of knowledge in voluntary action. The paper also offers to identify a contemporary context for the (...) ideomotor theory of action. It is argued that such a context is provided by the enactive theory of perception. (shrink)
In very general terms, an agent is a being with the capacity to act, and 'agency' denotes the exercise or manifestation of this capacity. The philosophy of action provides us with a standard conception and a standard theory of action. The former construes action in terms of intentionality, the latter explains the intentionality of action in terms of causation by the agent’s mental states and events. From this, we obtain a standard conception and a standard theory of agency. There are (...) alternative conceptions of agency, and it has been argued that the standard theory fails to capture agency. Further, it seems that genuine agency can be exhibited by beings that are not capable of intentional action, and it has been argued that agency can and should be explained without reference to causally efficacious mental states and events. Debates about the nature of agency have flourished over the past few decades in philosophy and in other areas of research. In philosophy, the nature of agency is an important issue in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of psychology, the debates on free will and moral responsibility, in ethics, meta-ethics, and in the debates on the nature of reasons and practical rationality. For the most part, this entry focuses on conceptual and metaphysical questions concerning the nature of agency. In the final sections, it provides an overview of empirically informed accounts of the sense of agency and of various empirical challenges to the commonsense assumption that our reasons and our conscious intentions make a real difference to how we act. (shrink)
According to current orthodoxy in the philosophy of action, intentional actions consist in intrinsically mindless bodily movements that stand in causal relations to appropriate mental states. This paper challenges this approach to intentional action, by arguing that there are not enough appropriate mental states around to ‘animate’ all of the bodily movements we intuitively count as intentional actions. In the alternative picture I suggest, the bodily movements that constitute our intentional actions are themselves to be thought of as cognitive events, (...) embodying our grasp of ways of acting. (shrink)
Dreadful and dreaded outcomes are sometimes brought about via the accumulation of individually trivial effects. Think about inching toward terrible health or toward an environmental disaster. In some such cases, the outcome is seen as unacceptable but is still gradually realized via an extended sequence of moves each of which is trivial in terms of its impact on the health or environment of those involved. Cases of this sort are not only practically challenging, they are theoretically challenging as well. For, (...) they raise puzzling complications concerning the assessment of conduct. In particular, given cases of this sort, we seem forced to conclude that, sometimes, each current doing in an extended sequence of moves can be correctly assessed as permissible (relative to a certain set of concerns) even though the sequence foreseeably leads to an outcome that is unacceptable (relative to that same set of concerns) and even though acceptable outcomes are available. And this seems paradoxical. I argue that this (apparent) puzzle glosses over complications associated with action individuation and units of agency. Reflection on these complications makes it clear that in cases of the sort that have given rise to the puzzle, there is an accurate way of seeing what is being done at various particular moments that clearly brings out the tight connection between a current doing and non-trivial damage that is to be expected (and is indeed bound to occur if the doing is completed without a hitch). (shrink)
I agree with Nachev and Hacker’s general approach. However, their criticism of claims of covert automaticity can be strengthened. I first say a few words on what voluntary action involves and on the consequent limited relevance of brain research for the determination of voluntariness. I then turn to Nachev and Hacker’s discussion of possible covert automaticity and show why the case for it is weaker than they allow.
This paper is part of a symposium discussing Helen Steward's A METAPHYSICS FOR FREEDOM. Steward argues for what she calls Agency Incompatibilism: agency itself is incompatible with determinism. This paper examines what Steward presents as her main argument for Agency Incompatibilism and finds it wanting.
The author’s practice-led research explores “the act of living.” In order to advance this idea, the author has acquired skills in investigation and expressed her thinking through a descriptive and explanatory visual language. The author’s learning journey, while not unique, has not been an ordinary one. Initial academic failure to achieve in the school education system contributes to choosing a life working on the land and harbouring the belief that she is unable to learn academically. Still, the author has gained (...) a rich base of physical knowledge and experience through the traditional oral route including learning interpersonal communication through body language and vocal tonality. The author has used this intuitive knowledge to develop an arts practice where she explores the bio-cultural links between people and the lands they inhabit, creating works that aim to extend knowing through emphasising the experience and atmosphere of landscape. At this time, when our lives have become increasingly encoded and intellectually based, the author shares a belief with American philosopher Eugene Gendlin (b. 1926) that the “felt sense” can be developed in order to enable us to engage more fully with the world around us. The author explores this idea in her visual art but also realizes the need to express it in writing, both in order to reach a wider public and because of the possibilities offered by the written word to make public which is private and held deep within. (shrink)
Die intensive Auseinandersetzung mit Dispositionen und Kausalkräften innerhalb der analytischen Ontologie hat wesentlich dazu beigetragen, in der Handlungstheorie offener und ungenierter von den Kausalkräften des Handelnden („agent causal powers“) bzw. der Agenskausalität (AK) zu sprechen. In diesem Beitrag gehe ich auf diese Entwicklung ein, indem ich aktuelle Ansätze agenskausaler libertarischer Willensfreiheit (ALW) diskutiere. Zuerst stelle ich kurz die Konkurrenztheorie von ALW dar, welche libertarische Willensfreiheit im Rahmen ereigniskausaler Ansätze (ELW) zu entfalten versucht. Dann skizziere ich zwei Haupteinwände, welche Vertreter von (...) ALW gegenüber ELW einbringen, nämlich den Zufallseinwand („problem of luck“) und das Problem des verschwindenden Handelnden („problem of the disappearing agent“). Im Anschluss daran argumentiere ich dafür, dass Agenskausalität den Kontrolleinwand nur dann beheben kann, wenn sie nicht als rein kausales, sondern zusätzlich auch als ein rationales Vermögen bestimmt wird. Ich schließe mit einigen Überlegungen, inwiefern eine Metaphysik der Kausalkräfte positiv zur Fortführung dieser Diskussion beitragen kann, und wo die Grenzen eines solchen metaphysischen Ansatzes zu zeichnen sind. (shrink)
The paper considers and opposes the view that processes are best thought of as continuants, to be differentiated from events mainly by way of the fact that the latter, but not the former, are entities with temporal parts. The motivation for the investigation, though, is not so much the defeat of what is, in any case, a rather implausible claim, as the vindication of some of the ideas and intuitions that the claim is made in order to defend — and (...) the grounding of those ideas and intuitions in a more plausible metaphysics than is provided by the continuant view. It is argued that in addition to a distinction between events and processes there is room and need for a third category, that of the individual process, which can be illuminatingly compared with the idea of a substance. Individual processes indeed share important metaphysical features with substantial continuants, but they do not lack temporal parts. Instead, it is argued that individual processes share with substantial continuants an important property I call ‘modal robustness in virtue of form’. The paper explains what this property is, and further suggests that the category of individual process, thus understood, might be of considerable value to the philosophy of action. (shrink)
The current assessment of behaviors in the inventories to diagnose autism spectrum disorders (ASD) focus on observation and discrete categorizations. Behaviors require movements, yet measurements of physical movements are seldom included. Their inclusion however, could provide an objective characterization of behavior to help unveil interactions between the peripheral and the central nervous systems. Such interactions are critical for the development and maintenance of spontaneous autonomy, self-regulation and voluntary control. At present, current approaches cannot deal with the heterogeneous, dynamic and stochastic (...) nature of development. Accordingly, they leave no avenues for real-time or longitudinal assessments of change in a coping system continuously adapting and developing compensatory mechanisms. We offer a new unifying statistical framework to reveal re-afferent kinesthetic features of the individual with ASD. The new methodology is based on the non-stationary stochastic patterns of minute fluctuations (micro-movements) inherent to our natural actions. Such patterns of behavioral variability provide re-entrant sensory feedback contributing to the autonomous regulation and coordination of the motor output. From an early age, this feedback supports centrally driven volitional control and fluid, flexible transitions between intentional and spontaneous behaviors. We show that in ASD there is a disruption in the maturation of this form of proprioception. Despite this disturbance, each individual has unique adaptive compensatory capabilities that we can unveil and exploit to evoke faster and more accurate decisions. Measuring the kinesthetic re-afference in tandem with stimuli variations we can detect changes in their micro-movements indicative of a more predictive and reliable kinesthetic percept. Our methods address the heterogeneity of ASD with a personalized approach grounded in the inherent sensory-motor abilities that the individual has already developed. (shrink)
Here it is argued that in order for something someone “does” to count as a genuine action, the person needn’t have been able to refrain from doing it. If this is right, then two recent defenses of the principle of alternative possibilities, a version of which says that a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have refrained from doing it, are unsuccessful.
In this book, I offer an account of intentional action. The book has two main parts: in the first part, I discuss and criticize the currently prevailing account of intentional action—the Causal Theory of Action (CTA)—and, in the second part, I offer my alternative account. The CTA proposes essentially two conditions for something that you do to be an intentional action: (1) what you do is represented by your intention (or other mental attitudes), and (2) it is caused by your (...) intention. Against the CTA, I argue that, since it conceives of representation and causality as essentially separate conditions, it cannot explain why, when someone acts intentionally, it is not a mere accident that both conditions are jointly satisfied: i.e., that the intention causes the movement it represents. The CTA’s inability to rule out such accidentality is, as I argue further, the deeper source of the notorious problem of deviant causation. Given this diagnosis, I claim that the key for a satisfactory account of intentional action is to conceive of the essential unity of representation and causality in intentional action. Doing so, I suggest, requires understanding a distinctive sort of causality at work in intentional action. Following the work of G.E.M. Anscombe, I argue that what is distinctive of the sort of causal-explanatory connection captured in action explanations like “S is doing A because she intends to do B” is that it is essentially known by the acting subject. In the final sections of the book, I then develop and defend a conception of the sort of self-knowledge involved in intentional action. (shrink)
The idea of basic action is a fixed point in the contemporary investigation of the nature of action. And while there are arguments aimed at putting the idea in place, it is meant to be closer to a gift of common sense than to a hard-won achievement of philosophical reflection. It first appears at the stage of innocuous description and before the announcement of philosophical positions. And yet, as any decent magician knows, the real work so often gets done in (...) the set-up. I argue that the seemingly innocent idea of basic action is, in fact, bound up with a wide-spread conception of the nature of bodily or physical action (section 3). Its legitimacy is vital to the intelligibility of the causal theory of action, according to which physical action consists of a mere event and a condition of mind joined (in the right way) by the bond of causality. Left unchecked, means-end reason threatens to permeate physical action, and thus threatens the sovereignty of the sphere of material events at the center of the causal theory: such events, including the movements of one’s body when one intentionally moves it, are thought to be constitutively independent of the subject’s rational capacities. Basic action is a necessary countermeasure, a sort of metaphysical containment wall needed to preserve the separate jurisdictions of the mind of the acting subject and what merely happens. I argue that so long as action theory proceeds under the assumption that there must be basic action, it must regard our relation to the progress of our own deeds as not different in principle from Marx’s understanding of the relation of the non-worker (Nichtarbeiter) to the material processes that realize his own ideas, namely the work done on the factory floor. Each is alienated from the progress, or getting done, of his deeds. In each the process of doing something intentionally turns out to be a case of delegating tasks to another power. How the process comes to completion is not willed, and at best watched: the causal work is not the agent’s work, his knowledge not self-knowledge (section 5). We should find this unacceptable. And if this is right, it should be a pressing question whether there must be basic action. I argue that we have no good reason to think so: basic action is not forced on us by argument (sections 2 and 4). It is open to us to consider an alternative, one on which action is not, in the fundamental case, barren of means- end structure, but instead permeated by it: we register as a force in nature not at the limit of the means-end order but precisely in its constitution. [from article introduction]. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against Brandom's two-ply theory of action. For Brandom, action is the result of an agent acknowledging a practical commitment and then causally responding to that commitment by acting. Action is social because the content of the commitment upon which one acts is socially conferred in the game of giving and asking for reasons. On my proposal, instead of seeing action as the coupling of a rational capacity to acknowledge commitments and a non-rational capacity to reliably (...) respond to these commitments, we should see action as the coupling, or potential coupling, of a capacity to reason practically and a capacity to act on habits and bodily skills. In putting forward this alternative model of action, I aim to replace Brandom's rationalist brand of Pragmatism with a more classical kind, one that will let us see action as social not only at the level of reasons but also at the level of bodily habits and skills. (shrink)
New Waves in Philosophy, a book collection that stands out for giving a snapshot of research in all areas of philosophy is a successful editorial project addressed by Vincent F. Hendricks and Duncan Pritchard. New Waves in Philosophy of Action is one of its last titles, edited by Jesús H. Aguilar, Andrei A. Buckareff and Keith Frankish. -/- The book is aimed at the researchers of all fields and readers in general interested in this sub-discipline of philosophy very difficult to (...) localize (is it part of a sub-discipline such as metaphysics or maybe part of the philosophy of mind?). What is and how can we know the nature of intentions and its role in action? (shrink)
The “New Natural Law” Theory (NNL) of Germain Grisez, John Finnis, Joseph Boyle, and their collaborators offers a distinctive account of intentional action, which underlies a moral theory that aims to justify many aspects of traditional morality and Catholic doctrine. -/- In fact, we show that the NNL is committed to premises that entail the permissibility of many actions that are irreconcilable with traditional morality and Catholic doctrine, such as elective abortions. These consequences follow principally from two aspects of the (...) NNL. The first aspect is its distinctive version of the planning theory of intention, in which adopting the 'first-person perspective' of an agent is a sufficient, and not merely necessary, condition for determining the nature of his intentional action; this planning theory rests upon an implicitly Cartesian conception of human behavior, in which behavior chosen by an agent has no intrinsic “intentionalness” apart from what he confers upon it as part of his plan. The second aspect is the NNL's distinctive account of basic human goods' incommensurability, according to which there is no common factor shared by basic human goods that allows them to be comparatively ranked in any way that directs practical deliberation. -/- The entailments of these two aspects of the NNL, we argue, amount to a reductio ad absurdum. Pace the proponents of the NNL account, we sketch an alternative hylomorphic conception of intentional action that avoids untoward moral implications by grounding human agency in the exercise of basic powers that are either (a) essential constituents of human nature or (b) acquired through participation in social practices. This conception of intentional action provides a stronger foundation for natural law theory. (shrink)
This book focuses on material culture as a subject of philosophical inquiry and promotes the philosophical study of material culture by articulating some of the central and difficult issues raised by this topic and providing innovative solutions to them, most notably an account of improvised action and a non-intentionalist account of function in material culture. Preston argues that material culture essentially involves activities of production and use; she therefore adopts an action-theoretic foundation for a philosophy of material culture. Part 1 (...) illustrates this foundation through a critique, revision, and extension of existing philosophical theories of action. Part 2 investigates a salient feature of material culture itself—its functionality. A basic account of function in material culture is constructed by revising and extending existing theories of biological function to fit the cultural case. Here the adjustments are for the most part necessitated by special features of function in material culture. These two parts of the project are held together by a trio of overarching themes: the relationship between individual and society, the problem of centralized control, and creativity. (shrink)
The paper argues that actions should be thought of as processes and not events. A number of reasons are offered for thinking that the things that it is most plausible to suppose we are trying to cotton on to with the generic talk of ‘actions’ in which philosophy indulges cannot be events. A framework for thinking about the event-process distinction which can help us understand how we ought to think about the ontology of processes we need instead is then developed, (...) building on some excellent work already done by philosophers working at the intersection of philosophy and linguistics. (shrink)