A Critique of Carl Ginet's Intrinsic Theory of Volition

Behavior and Philosophy 29:101 - 120 (2001)
This essay presents an analysis in the area of the theory of human action. Philosophers and pschologists are interested in theories of action because action defines those behaviors that are under our control as opposed to behaviors that in some sense just happen. In its wider context, a theory of action has implications for legal reasoning or moral reasoning. Throughout the history of this topic, one of the leading theories of action has been the volitional theory. Volition, in its simplest sense, refers to an act of will. In this essay, I evaluate the work of Carl Ginet, who is one of the leading modern advocates of the Volitional theory of action. I argue below that Ginet's sophisticated volitional theory of action suffers from certain internal problems that result from Ginet's project of removing causal relations from his account of action. Ultimately, I argue that when he does this, Ginet reduces the theoretical resources for explaning how volition is connected to both overt behavior and to the agent. Furthermore, I belive that elucidating such problems is valuable just because this process reveals why we should focus our efforts upon a leading alternative to the volitional theory, namely the belief/desire theory of action. In the way, my analysis of Ginet reveals the strengths of an externalist rather than an internalist approach to the problem of action.
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