A Critical Analysis of Donald Davidson's Philosophy of Action

Dissertation, The University of British Columbia (Canada) (1995)

John Michael McGuire
Hanyang University
This thesis is a critical examination of three influential and interrelated aspects of Donald Davidson's philosophy of action. The first issue that is considered is Davidson's account of the logical form of action-sentences. After assessing the argument in support of Davidson's account, and suggesting certain amendments to it, I show how this modified version of Davidson's account can be extended to provide for more complicated types of action-sentences. The second issue that is considered is Davidson's views concerning the individuation of actions; in particular, I examine Davidson's theory concerning the ontological implications of those sentences that assert that an agent did something by means of doing something else. The conclusion that I seek to establish in this case is essentially negative--that Davidson's theory is false. The third issue that is considered is Davidson's theory concerning the logical implications of those sentences that assert that an agent did something as a means of doing something else, which is also commonly known as the causal theory of action. Here I argue against Davidson's view by providing an alternative, and more satisfying response to the theoretical challenge that generates the causal theory. Subsequent to this I attempt to explain what motivates Davidson's commitment to the causal theory
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