Deviant Formal Causation

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 5 (3):1-24 (2011)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

What is the role of practical thought in determining the intentional action that is performed? Donald Davidson’s influential answer to this question is that thought plays an efficient-causal role: intentional actions are those events that have the correct causal pedigree in the agent's beliefs and desires. But the Causal Theory of Action has always been plagued with the problem of “deviant causal chains,” in which the right action is caused by the right mental state but in the wrong way. This paper addresses an alternative approach to understanding intentional action inspired by G.E.M. Anscombe, interpreting that view as casting practical thought in the role of formal rather than efficient cause of action and thereby avoiding the problem of deviant (efficient) causal chains. Specifically, on the neo-Anscombean view, it is the agent’s “practical knowledge” – non-observational, non-inferential knowledge of what one is doing – that confers the form of intentional action on an event and is the contribution of thought to determining what is intentionally done. This paper argues that the Anscombean view is subject to its own problematic type of deviance: deviant formal causation. What we know non-observationally about what we are doing often includes more than what we intend to be doing; we also know that we are bringing about the foreseen side effects of acting in the intended way. It is argued that the neo-Anscombean view faces difficulty in excluding the expected side effects from the specification of what is intentionally done, whereas the Causal Theory has no such difficulty. Thus, the discussion amounts to an argument in favor of the Causal Theory of Action.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 76,297

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Non-deviant causal chains.Robert K. Shope - 1991 - Journal of Philosophical Research 16:251-291.
Knowledge in action.John Gibbons - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (3):579-600.
Agent Causation and Acting for Reasons.Rebekah L. H. Rice - 2011 - American Philosophical Quarterly 48 (4):333-346.
Deviance and causalism.Lilian O'Brien - 2012 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 93 (2):175-196.
Basic deviance reconsidered.Markus E. Schlosser - 2007 - Analysis 67 (3):186–194.
The normative force of reasoning.Ralph Wedgwood - 2006 - Noûs 40 (4):660–686.
Whither Action theory: Artificial Intelligence or Aristotle?John M. Connolly - 1991 - Journal of Philosophical Research 16:85-106.
Perception and Practical Knowledge.John Schwenkler - 2011 - Philosophical Explorations 14 (2):137-152.
The intentionality of intention and action.John R. Searle - 1979 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 22 (1-4):253 – 280.
Neurosciences of action and noncausal theories.Don Gustafson - 2007 - Philosophical Psychology 20 (3):367–374.

Analytics

Added to PP
2011-04-12

Downloads
271 (#44,936)

6 months
7 (#117,246)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Sarah Paul
New York University, Abu Dhabi

Citations of this work

The contours of control.Joshua Shepherd - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (3):395-411.
Intention.Kieran Setiya - 2009 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Agent causation as a solution to the problem of action.Michael Brent - 2017 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (5):656-673.
The Arithmetic of Intention.Anton Ford - 2015 - American Philosophical Quarterly 52 (2):129-143.

View all 19 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
The Possibility of Practical Reason.David Velleman - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Reasons Without Rationalism.Kieran Setiya - 2007 - Princeton University Press.

View all 23 references / Add more references