Action theory has given rise to some perplexing puzzles in the past half century. The most prominent one can be summarized as follows: What distinguishes intentional from unintentional acts? Thanks to the ingenuity of philosophers and their thought experiments, we know better than to assume that the difference lies in the mere presence of an intention, or in its causal efficacy in generating the action. The intention might be present and may also cause the intended behavior, yet the behavior may (...) not be an intentional action; it may not be an action at all. The classic example is that of the nervous nephew who intends to kill his uncle to inherit his estate, and whose intention makes him so nervous as to drive recklessly, thereby running over a pedestrian... who happens to be his very uncle. The intention to kill is present and it causes the killing, yet the killing is not an intentional action. Rather, what appears to distinguish intentional from non-intentional action is voluntary control of the proper sort, and what distinguishes action from non-action is behavior caused in a particular manner. But spelling out the sort and specifying the manner have proven vexing tasks. (shrink)
Michael Polanyi argues that in the case of both organisms and machines the functionality of the higher level imposes boundary conditions that harness the operations of lower level components in the service of the higher level, systemic whole. Given the science of his day, however, Polanyi understands this shaping of boundary conditions in terms of the operation of an external agency. The essay argues that the science of nonlinear, far from equilibrium thermodynamics in general, and the phenomenon of autocatalysis in (...) particular, explains how the endogenous closure of context-sensitive dynamic constraints shapes their boundary conditions such that self-organized, causally effective properties emerge. (shrink)
(1993). Two conceptual problems for the theory of Evolution: Causality and the explanation of emergence. World Futures: Vol. 38, Theoretical Achievements and Practical Applications of General Evolutionary Theory, pp. 123-129.
John Searle articulates a general theory of how mind, language, and society “hang together” in a coherent whole. He begins with some assumptions regarding “basic metaphysics,” defending “external realism” even as he refuses to provide a justification for it on the grounds that “any attempt at justification presupposes what it attempts to justify”.
Pols addresses the mind-body problem by a creative development of the views on agency and direct knowing expressed in his earlier Meditation on a Prisoner, The Acts of Our Being, and Radical Realism. A long introductory chapter outlines four major theses of the present book. Dominant modern doctrines about knowing conceal the mind’s power to know the real directly. Dominant modern doctrines about causality—especially the received scientific doctrine of causality—hide the distinctive mode of causality the mind deploys within and upon (...) the physical infrastructure that supports it. Reflexive attention on the part of mind to the full concreteness of its own functions—Pols calls this “attending to mind itself”—can overcome these doctrinal barriers and reveal the true causal status of mind. A rational agent is the apex being of a hierarchy of causality: although causally supported by its infrastructure, it is also causally effective in that infrastructure. (shrink)