How to Perform a Nonbasic Action

Noûs (forthcoming)
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Some actions we perform "just like that" without taking a means, e.g., raising your arm or wiggling your finger. Other actions—the nonbasic actions—we perform by taking a means, e.g., voting by raising your arm or illuminating a room by flipping a switch. A nearly ubiquitous view about nonbasic action is that one's means to a nonbasic action constitutes the nonbasic action, as raising your arm constitutes voting or flipping a switch constitutes illuminating a room. In this paper, I challenge this view. I argue that one’s means to a nonbasic action can cause rather than constitute it. In the process, we gain a clearer understanding of the scope of our agency—one that includes mental actions such as judgment and decision—and the pluralistic nature of basic features of action including control, purposefulness, and agent participation.

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Mikayla Kelley
Stanford University

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References found in this work

Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 57:321-332.
What Happens When Someone Acts?J. David Velleman - 1992 - Mind 101 (403):461-481.
The Problem of Action.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1978 - American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (2):157-162.
Two faces of intention.Michael Bratman - 1984 - Philosophical Review 93 (3):375-405.

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