Davidsonian Causalism and Wittgensteinian Anti-Causalism: A Rapprochement

Abstract

A longstanding debate in the philosophy of action opposes causalists to anti-causalists. Causalists claim the authority of Davidson, who offered powerful arguments to the effect that intentional explanations must be causal explanations. Anti-causalists claim the authority of Wittgenstein, who offered equally powerful arguments to the effect that reasons cannot be causes. My aim in this paper is to achieve a rapprochement between Davidsonian causalists and Wittgensteinian anti-causalists by showing how both sides can agree that reasons are not causes, but that intentional explanations are causal explanations. To this end, I first defuse Davidson’s Challenge, an argument purporting to show that intentional explanations are best made sense of as being explanatory because reasons are causes. I argue that Wittgenstein furnishes anti-causalists with the means to resist this conclusion. I then argue that this leaves the Master Argument for the claim that intentional explanations are causal explanations, but that by distinguishing between a narrow and a wide conception of causal explanation, we can resolve the stalemate between Wittgensteinian anti-causalists impressed by the thought that reasons cannot be causes and Davidsonian causalists impressed by the thought that intentional explanations must be causal explanations.

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Author's Profile

Matthieu Queloz
Oxford University

References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
Mental Events.Donald Davidson - 1970 - In L. Foster & J. W. Swanson (eds.), Experience and Theory. Clarendon Press. pp. 207-224.
Philosophical investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein & G. E. M. Anscombe - 1953 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 161:124-124.

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Citations of this work

Backing Without Realism.Elanor Taylor - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (3):1295-1315.

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