Who's in Control Here?: Robert V. Hannaford

Philosophy 51 (198):421-430 (1976)

The question arises from recent arguments, including one by G. E. M. Anscombe, which hold that a belief in one's ability to choose one's actions is incompatible with a causal account of the world. For, if one's arguments deny either choice or causal sequences, how can one account for human control of actions? If to control one's actions means to work to cause some chosen end, and if either point of the argument were correct, how could anyone ever control one's actions at all? Yet we must be able to control actions if we are to seek out and select from evidence or develop any kind of conceptual scheme. I want to develop this necessity-of-control notion to show that arguments such as those advanced by Miss Anscombe are incoherent and to show that we must retain our notion of choice while giving a causal account of the world. I will argue that deterministic sequences and the notions of choice and control go together: in order for us to have a tenable explanation of the world we must be able to talk about choice and control and we must identify and use predictable deterministic sequences in our acting and choosing. I shall argue that we can retain both causal explanation and choice only by employing two different conceptions of causal agency: merely physical agency and the voluntary agency of embodied actors.
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100018787
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