Intentional Action, Causation, and Deviance

Abstract

It is reasonably well accepted that the explanation of intentional action is teleological explanation. Very roughly, an explanation of some event, E, is teleological only if it explains E by citing some goal or purpose or reason that produced E. Alternatively, teleological explanations of intentional action explain “by citing the state of affairs toward which the behavior was directed” thereby answering questions like “To what end was the agent’s behavior directed?” Causalism—advocated by causalists—is the thesis that explanations of intentional action are both causal and teleological. By contrast, non-causalism—advocated by non-causalists—is the thesis that explanations of intentional action are teleological but not causal. Familiarly, the problem of causal deviance plagues causalism. But while some have supposed that the problem is grave enough that causalism is bound to suffer a global breakdown, the rumors of causalism’s demise are greatly exaggerated. In what follows, I note that every instance of causal deviance is also an instance of teleological deviance and that teleological deviance is a problem for causalist and non-causalist alike, a problem that causalists may be better able to deal with. Or so I argue.

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Peter Brian Barry
Saginaw Valley State University

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