Explaining action

Inquiry 13 (1-4):54 – 89 (1970)
This paper is an attempt to re-interpret some of the results of contemporary studies of action and explanation by philosophers who may loosely be called 'post-Wittgensteinian', e.g. G. E. M. Anscombe, A. Kenny, A. I. Melden. One of the themes which recurs in these' discussions is that of the non-contingent connection between desires, intentions, etc., and the actions which we explain by them — although not all the authors concerned understand this in the same way, and many would not accept the term 'non-contingent connection'. The thesis that there is a non-contingent connection between, e.g., desire and action is strongly contested, and I attempt in this paper to show (a) that our language for the factors which we cite in explaining action, desires, intentions (Sect. II), feelings (Sect. III), sensations (Sect. IV), etc. is inescapably dispositional in a strong sense, i.e. that it characterizes these factors as disposing us to act in certain ways. But I argue (b) that this does nothing to show that these factors are not causes of the actions they explain (Sect. I). The seeming oddity of causes which are non-contingently linked with their consequences is explained when we see (c) that the account of action embedded in our ordinary language is teleological, i.e. refers us ultimately to the inclinations of the subject, and intentional (Sects. V and VI).
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DOI 10.1080/00201747008601587
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References found in this work BETA
Donald Davidson (1963). Actions, Reasons, and Causes. Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685-700.
Moreland Perkins (1966). Emotion and Feeling. Philosophical Review 75 (April):139-160.

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