The causal theory of action is widely recognized in the literature of the philosophy of action as the "standard story" of human action and agency -- the nearest approximation in the field to a theoretical orthodoxy. This volume brings together leading figures working in action theory today to discuss issues relating to the CTA and its applications, which range from experimental philosophy to moral psychology. Some of the contributors defend the theory while others criticize it; some draw from historical sources (...) while others focus on recent developments; some rely on the tools of analytic philosophy while others cite the latest empirical research on human action. All agree, however, on the centrality of the CTA in the philosophy of action. The contributors first consider metaphysical issues, then reasons-explanations of action, and, finally, new directions for thinking about the CTA. They discuss such topics as the tenability of some alternatives to the CTA; basic causal deviance; the etiology of action ; teleologism and anticausalism; and the compatibility of the CTA with theories of embodied cognition. Two contributors engage in an exchange of views on intentional omissions that stretches over four essays, directly responding to each other in their follow-up essays. As the action -oriented perspective becomes more influential in philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science, this volume offers a long-needed debate over foundational issues. Contributors: Fred Adams, Jesús H. Aguilar, John Bishop, Andrei A. Buckareff, Randolph Clarke, Jennifer Hornsby, Alicia Juarrero, Alfred R. Mele, Michael S. Moore, Thomas Nadelhoffer, Josef Perner, Johannes Roessler, David-Hillel Ruben, Carolina Sartorio, Michael Smith, Rowland Stout The hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Defending the distinction between believing and accepting a proposition, I argue that cases where agents allegedly exercise direct voluntary control over their beliefs are instances of agents exercising direct voluntary control over accepting a proposition. The upshot is that any decision to believe a proposition cannot result directly in one’s acquiring the belief. Accepting is an instrumental mental action the agent performs that may trigger belief. A model of the relationship between acceptance and belief is sketched and defended. The (...) consequences of the distinction between belief and acceptance, and the model of belief control sketched are then applied to the recent case made by Carl Ginet in defense of the conceptual and psychological possibility of agents exercising direct voluntary control over their beliefs. n. (shrink)
The ways in which we exercise intentional agency are varied. I take the domain of intentional agency to include all that we intentionally do versus what merely happens to us. So the scope of our intentional agency is not limited to intentional action. One can also exercise some intentional agency in omitting to act and, importantly, in producing the intentional outcome of an intentional action. So, for instance, when an agent is dieting, there is an exercise of agency both with (...) respect to the agent’s actions and omissions that constitute her dieting behavior and in achieving the intended outcome of losing weight. In our mental lives we exercise intentional agency both in performing mental actions and when we intentionally produce certain outcomes at which our mental actions are aimed. The nature and scope of our intentional agency in our mental lives with respect to controlling the acquisition of mental states such as belief, desire, and intention is a topic that is of interest in its own right. In this essay, I will focus solely on our control over coming to believe. Understanding what sort of control we have our beliefs has far-reaching implications. For instance, theorizing about self-deception and wishful thinking is aided by theorizing about what if any intentional agency we can exercise with respect to acquiring beliefs. Another often mentioned concern that motivates thinking about doxastic agency comes from religion (when conversion requires a change of belief). We also hold persons morally and epistemically responsible for beliefs they have or fail to have. Finally, some deontological theories of epistemic justification require that agents be able to exercise a robust form of doxastic control. Fruitful work on any of these problems requires that we have an account of our intentional agency in acquiring beliefs. There are at least three loci of doxastic control. The first is over acquiring beliefs. The second is over maintaining beliefs. The third is over how we use our beliefs. I am chiefly concerned with the first locus of doxastic control in this essay, but I will say something about the second locus along the way. Also, I will only consider one way we might exercise control over acquiring beliefs. Specifically, I will present an argument against direct doxastic voluntarism (DDV). By “DDV” I mean to refer to the thesis that it is conceptually possible for agents to consciously exercise the same sort of direct voluntary control over coming to acquire a doxastic attitude—such as belief, suspension of belief, and disbelief—that they exercise over uncontroversial basic actions. If DDV is correct, then coming to believe can be a basic action-type. DDV, or something very close to it, was Bernard Williams’ target in his 1973 paper, “Deciding to Believe.” Williams’s argument is widely regarded as having been a failure. But I think that Williams was on to something in his paper. Hence, in this paper, while I do not attempt to resurrect Williams’s argument, I develop and defend a revised argument for a thesis that is quite close to Williams’s. I will proceed as follows. First, I will discuss Bernard Williams’ (1973) failed attempt at showing that DDV is conceptually impossible. This will be followed by a discussion of some constraints on our belief-forming activities. I will then clarify my target a bit more than Williams does in his original paper. Finally, I will present my own argument against the conceptual possibility of DDV. (shrink)
We argue that it is most rational for God, given God's character and policies, to adopt an open-door policy towards those in hell – making it possible for those in hell to escape. We argue that such a policy towards the residents of hell should issue from God's character and motivational states. In particular, God's parental love ought to motivate God to extend the provision for reconciliation with Him for an infinite amount of time.
I critique Matthias Steupâs account of exercising direct voluntary control over coming to have doxastic attitudes via doxastic decisions. I show that the sort of agency Steup argues is exercised in doxastic decision-making is not sufficient for agents to exercise direct voluntary control over their doxastic attitudes. This counts against such putative decisions being the locus of direct control in doxastic agency. Finally, I briefly consider what, if any, consequences the failure of Steupâs theory of doxastic agency may have for (...) epistemic deontologism. (shrink)
Research on the nature of dispositionality or causal power has flourished in recent years in metaphysics. This trend has slowly begun to influence debates in the philosophy of agency, especially in the literature on free will. Both sophisticated versions of agent-‐causalism and the new varieties of dispositionalist compatibilism exploit recently developed accounts of dispositionality in their defense. In this paper, I examine recent work on agent-‐causal power, focusing primarily on the account of agent-‐causalism developed and defended by Timothy O’Connor’s in (...) his work on free will. Assuming the existence of irreducible causal powers, I offer an. (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal, John Bishop argues in defence of conceiving of Christian faith as a ‘doxastic venture’. That is, he defends the claim that, in exercising faith, agents believe beyond ‘what can be established rationally on the basis of evidence and argument’. Careful examination reveals that Bishop fails adequately to show that faith in the face of inadequate epistemic reasons for believing is, or can even be, a uniquely doxastic venture. I argue that faith is best (...) conceived of as a sub-doxastic venture that involves pragmatically assuming that God exists. (shrink)
I examine Galen Strawson's recent work on mental action in his paper, 'Mental Ballistics or The Involuntariness of Spontaneity'. I argue that his account of mental action is too restrictive. I offer a means of testing tokens of mental activity types to determine if they are actional. The upshot is that a good deal more mental activity than Strawson admits is actional.
In our paper, ‘Escaping hell: divine motivation and the problem of hell’, we defended a theory of hell that we called ‘escapism’. We argued that given God’s just and loving character it would be most rational for God to maintain an open door policy to those who are in hell, allowing them an unlimited number of chances to be reconciled with God and enjoy communion with God. In this paper we reply to two recent objections to our original paper. The (...) first is an argument from religious luck offered by Rusty Jones. The second is an argument from Kyle Swan that alleges that our commitments about the nature of reasons for action still leaves escapism vulnerable to an objection we labeled the ‘Job objection’ in our original paper. In this paper we argue that escapism has the resources built into it needed to withstand the objections from Jones and Swan. (shrink)
This paper identifies and critiques a theory of mental causation defended by some proponents of nonredutive physicalism that I call “intralevelism.” Intralevelist theories differ in their details. On all versions, the causal outcome of the manifestation of physical properties is physical and the causal outcome of the manifestation of mental properties is mental. Thus, mental causation on this view is intralevel mental to mental causation. This characterization of mental causation as intralevel is taken to insulate nonreductive physicalism from some objections (...) to nonreductive physicalism, including versions of the exclusion argument. This paper examines some features of three recent versions of intralevelism defended by John Gibbons, Markus Schlosser, and Amie Thomasson. This paper shows that the distinctive problems faced by these three representative versions of intralevelism suggest that the intralevelist strategy does not provide a viable solution to the exclusion problem. (shrink)
We reply to Andrew Sneddon’s recent criticism of the causal theory of action (CTA) and critically examine Sneddon’s preferred alternative, minimal causalism. We show that Sneddon’s criticism of CTA is problematic in several respects, and therefore his conclusion that “the prospects for CTA look poor” is unjustified. Moreover, we show that the minimal causalism that Sneddon advocates looks rather unpromising and its merits that Sneddon mentions are untenable.
The case is discussed for the doctrine of hell as posing a unique problem of evil for adherents to the Abrahamic religions who endorse traditional theism. The problem is particularly acute for those who accept retributivist formulations of the doctrine of hell according to which hell is everlasting punishment for failing to satisfy some requirement. Alternatives to retributivism are discussed, including the unique difficulties that each one faces.
Many philosophers of action afford intentions a central role in theorizing about action and its explanation. Furthermore, current orthodoxy in the philosophy of action has it that intentions play a causal role with respect to the etiology and explanation of action. But action theory is not without its heretics. Some philosophers have challenged the orthodox view. In this paper I examine and critique one such challenge. I consider David-Hillel Ruben's case against the need for intentions to play a causal role (...) in the etiology and explanation of mental actions. Contra Ruben, I defend the orthodox view that intentions play an indispensable causal and explanatory role with respect to mental actions. (shrink)
We focus on the recent non-causal theory of reasons explanationsof free action proffered by a proponent of the agency theory, Timothy O'Connor. We argue that the conditions O'Connor offersare neither necessary nor sufficient for a person to act for a reason. Finally, we note that the role O'Connor assigns toreasons in the etiology of actions results in further conceptual difficulties for agent-causalism.
In our paper, ‘Escaping hell: divine motivation and the problem of hell’, we defended a theory of hell that we called ‘escapism’. We argued that, given God's just and loving character, it would be most rational for Him to maintain an open-door policy to those who are in hell, allowing them an unlimited number of chances to be reconciled with God and enjoy communion with Him. In this paper we reply to two recent objections to our original paper. The first (...) is an argument from religious luck offered by Russell Jones. The second is an argument from Kyle Swan that alleges that our commitments about the nature of reasons for action still leaves escapism vulnerable to an objection we labelled the ‘Job objection’ in our original paper. In this paper we argue that escapism has the resources built into it needed to withstand the objections from Jones and Swan. (shrink)
In this paper we examine and critique the constitution view of the metaphysics of resurrection developed and defended by Lynne Rudder Baker. Baker identifies three conditions for an adequate metaphysics of resurrection. We argue that one of these, the identity condition, cannot be met on the constitution view given the account of personal identity it assumes. We discuss some problems with the constitution theory of personal identity Baker develops in her book, Persons and Bodies. We argue that these problems render (...) the constitution theory of personal identity as stated by Baker untenable. The upshot for the debate over the metaphysics of resurrection is that the constitution view of the metaphysics of resurrection must either be rejected or modified. (shrink)
In this article, I challenge the dominant view of the importance of the debate over action-individuation. On the dominant view, it is held that the conclusions we reach about action-individuation make little or no difference for other debates in the philosophy of action, much less in other areas of philosophy. As a means of showing that the dominant view is mistaken, I consider the implications of accepting a given theory of action-individuation for thinking about doxastic agency. In particular, I am (...) interested in the implications for thinking about the variety of evaluative control we can exercise over the formation of our doxastic attitudes. I show that our assumptions about how to individuate actions matters for how we think about doxastic agency and, hence, the conclusions we reach about action-individuation are of greater significance than some have thought. (shrink)
I take it that the following is a desideratum of our theories in the philosophy of mind. A theory in the philosophy of mind should help us better understand ourselves as agents and aid in our theorizing about the nature of action and agency. In this paper I discuss a strategy adopted by some defenders of nonreductive physicalism in response to the problem of causal exclusion. The strategy, which I refer to as “intralevelism,” relies on treating mental causation as intra (...) level mental to mental causation, rather than as involving any inter level mental to physical causation. I raise problems for intralevelist theories of mental causation that stem from action-theoretic considerations. Specifically, I focus on the failure of intralevelist proposals to account for the problem of basic causal deviance in the etiology of action. To the extent that intralevelism fails to make room for basic causal deviance, the strategy fails to satisfy the aforementioned desideratum, viz ., that our theories in the philosophy of mind should be of use in theorizing about action and agency. The upshot is that intralevelism is a less promising strategy for nonreductive physicalists than it appears at first glance. (shrink)
In Crossing the Threshold of Divine Revelation,1 William Abraham offers a rich, subtle defense of an epistemology of divine revelation. While I believe there is much about Abraham’s work that is commendable, my remarks in this paper will be primarily critical. But the fact that Abraham’s work is worthy of critical comment should be evidence enough of the importance of Abraham’s book. My focus here will be on a cluster of metaepistemological claims made by Abraham. Specifically, I will argue that (...) Abraham’s remarks about epistemic fit and the epistemic standards we bring to bear in making evaluations of divine revelation claims commit him to a species of epistemic relativism. This may not be a problem. I am not interested in offering an argument against epistemic relativism.2 I suspect, however, that Abraham does not think of himself as an epistemic relativist.3 If this is the case, then I believe Abraham needs to rethink his metaepistemological commitments that imply epistemic relativism. (shrink)
Sharon Ryan has recently argued that if one has compatibilist intuitions about free action, then one should reject the claim that agents cannot exercise direct voluntary control over coming to believe. In this paper I argue that the differences between beliefs and actions make the expectation of direct voluntary control over coming to believe unreasonable. So Ryan's theory of doxastic agency is untenable.
Richard Scheer has recently argued against what he calls the 'mental state' theory of intentions. He argues that versions of this theory fail to account for various characteristics of intention. In this essay we reply to Scheer's criticisms and argue that intentions are mental states.
On the Causal Theory of Action (CTA), internal proper parts of an agent such as desires and intentions are causally responsible for actions. CTA has increasingly come under attack for its alleged failure to account for agency. A recent version of this criticism due to François Schroeter proposes that CTA cannot provide an adequate account of either the executive control or the autonomous control involved in full-fledged agency. Schroeter offers as an alternative a revised understanding of the proper role of (...) consciousness in agency. In this paper we criticize Schroeter’s analysis of the type of consciousness involved in executive control and examine the way in which the conscious self allegedly intervenes in action. We argue that Schroeter’s proposal should not be preferred over recent versions of CTA. (shrink)
The problem of doxastic agency concerns what sort of agency humans can exercise with regard to forming doxastic attitudes such as belief. In this essay I defend a version of what James Montmarquet calls "The Asymmetry Thesis": Coming to believe and action are asymmetrical with respect to direct voluntary control. I argue that normal adult human agents cannot exercise direct voluntary control over the acquisition of any of their doxastic attitudes in the same way that they exercise such control over (...) their actions, particularly basic actions. I argue, however, that normal adult human agents can exercise indirect voluntary control over coming to have some of their doxastic attitudes just as they can exercise indirect voluntary control over the outcomes of actions. Furthermore, coming to believe as the outcome of some agency performed with the goal of acquiring a particular doxastic attitude towards a specific proposition can be the intentional outcome of some doxastic agency. So if an agent intends to come to believe that p, under some circumstances she can bring it about that she comes to believe that p as the outcome of her exercise of agency. In critiquing the thesis that agents can exercise direct voluntary control over forming their doxastic attitudes, I argue that some ways of exercising such control are conceptually impossible. But even if other ways of exercising direct voluntary control over the formation of doxastic attitudes are not conceptually impossible, I argue that it is psychologically impossible to exercise direct voluntary control over the acquisition of any doxastic attitudes. I consider proposals offered in defense of the claim that normal adult human agents can exercise direct voluntary control over acquiring doxastic attitudes by Carl Ginet, Mark Heller, Sharon Ryan, and Matthias Steup. I argue that none of the theories of doxastic agency defended by these authors is tenable. So while I argue that the variety of doxastic agency normal adult humans can exercise is fairly robust, the most we can hope for is indirect voluntary control over our doxastic attitudes. (shrink)
The doctrine of agent-causation has been suggested by many interested in defending libertarian theories of free action to provide the conceptual apparatus necessary to make the notion of incompatibility freedom intelligible. In the present essay the conceptual viability of the doctrine of agent-causation will be assessed. It will be argued that agent-causation is, insofar as it is irreducible to event-causation, mysterious at best, totally unintelligible at worst. First, the arguments for agent-causation made by such eighteenth-century luminaries as Samuel Clarke and (...) Thomas Reid will be considered alongside the defenses of agent-causation proffered in this century by C.A. Campbell, Roderick Chisholm, and Richard Taylor. It will be shown that the case for agent-causation made by these figures is ultimately unconvincing. Two defenses of agent-causation made within the past ten years will then be taken up for examination and critique. First, Timothy O'Connor's attempt at advancing an unrefined and unrepentant doctrine of agent-causation will be shown to suffer from the same maladies as its predecessors. Next, Randolph Clarke's causal agent-causal theory of free action, which seeks a via media between agent-causal theories of free action and causal theories of action, is examined. Clarke's theory is an attempt at providing an account of how both events and agents qua substances can be the codeterminants of free actions. Despite the improvement of Clarke's theory over more conventional agent-causal theories of free action, it will be shown that agent-causation makes his theory more cumbersome than it needs to be. Clarke is able to get as much mileage out of a causal indeterminacy theory of action that does not require him to posit obscure agent-causes. Finally, a sketch of an alternative theory of free action will be offered. While it may suffer from its own conceptual deficiencies, it may not suffer from the same conceptual problems as agent-causal theories of free action. (shrink)
Some of the most salient features of Randolph Clarke's causal agent-causal theory of free action are explicated and his theory critiqued. It is shown that invoking agent-causation is unnecessary and makes his theory cumbersome. For insofar as Clarke seeks to render the agency theory more intelligible by appealing to event-causation as contributing to the generation of basic actions, his theory gravitates closer to a causal indeterminist theory of free action.
: The suffering of creatures experienced throughout evolutionary history provides some conceptual difficulties for theists who maintain that God is an all-good loving creator who chose to employ the processes associated with evolution to bring about life on this planet. Some theists vexed by this and other problems posed by the interface between religion and science have turned to process theology which provides a picture of a God who is dependent upon creation and unable to unilaterally intervene in the affairs (...) of the world and avert suffering. In the present paper I seek to critique process theism, focusing on divine action and the aforementioned problem posed by evolutionary suffering. I show that the promise of a more compelling account of a loving God who suffers with creation advanced by the process theist is illusory. Rather, the process God is less dynamic than promised. And on such an account the freedom of both God and the world are significantly more circumscribed than one may find in other forms of theism. (shrink)
Benjamin Matheson has recently critiqued the escapist account of hell that we have defended. In this paper we respond to Matheson. Building on some of our work in defense of escapism that Matheson does not discuss we show that the threat posed by Matheson’s critique is chimerical. We begin by summarizing our escapist theory of hell. Next, we summarize both Matheson’s central thesis and the main arguments offered in its defense. We then respond to those arguments.
A knowledge argument is offered that presents unique difficulties for Christians who wish to assert that God is essentially omniscient. The difficulties arise from the doctrine of the incarnation. Assuming that God the Son did not necessarily have to become incarnate, then God cannot necessarily have knowledge de se of the content of a non-divine mind. If this is right, then God’s epistemic powers are not fixed across possible worlds and God is not essentially omniscient. Some options for Christian theists (...) are discussed, including rejecting traditional theism in favour of some version of pantheism or panentheism. (shrink)
In their recent book, Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment, Michael Bishop and J.D. Trout have challenged Standard Analytic Epistemology (SAE) in all its guises and have endorsed a version of the "replacement thesis"--proponents of which aim at replacing the standard questions of SAE with psychological questions. In this article I argue that Bishop and Trout offer an incomplete epistemology that, as formulated, cannot address many of the core issues that motivate interest in epistemological questions to begin with, and (...) so is not a fit replacement. (shrink)
According to theistic consubstantialism, the universe and God are essentially made of the same stuff. If theistic consubstantialism is correct, then God possesses the essential power to have knowledge de se of the contents of the mind of every conscious being internal to God. If theistic consubstantialism is false, then God lacks this essential property. So either God is essentially corporeal and possesses greater essential epistemic powers than God would have otherwise or God is essentially incorporeal and has a diminished (...) range of essential epistemic powers. In light of this dilemma, I argue that theists should accept theistic consubstantialism. (shrink)
Humean compatibilism combines a Humean conception of laws of nature with a strong dual-ability condition for free will that requires that agents possess the ability to decide differently when they make a free decision. On the Humean view of laws of nature, laws of nature are taken to be contingent non-governing descriptions of significant regularities that obtain in the entire history of the universe. On Humean compatibilism, agents are taken to possess dual ability when making free decisions because what the (...) laws of nature will finally be is dependent upon how an agent decides. In this paper, I argue that the tenability of Humean compatibilism depends in part upon what theory of time is correct. More specifically, I argue that Humean compatibilism is untenable in a deterministic universe if eternalism is true. (shrink)
The mentalistic orthodoxy about reason-explanations of action in the philosophy of mind has recently come under renewed attack. Julia Tanney is among those who have critiqued mentalism. The alternative account of the folk practice of giving reason-explanations of actions she has provided affords features of an agent’s external environment a privileged role in explaining the intentional behaviour of agents. The authors defend the mentalistic orthodoxy from Tanney’s criticisms, arguing that Tanney fails to provide a philosophically satisfying or psychologically realistic account (...) of reason-explanation of action. (shrink)
In his landmark book on philosophical theology, Saving God: Religion After Idolatry, Mark Johnston develops a panentheistic metaphysic of the divine that he contends is compatible with ontological naturalism. On his view, God is the universe, but the ‘is’ is the ‘is’ of constitution, not identity. The universe and God are coinciding objects that share properties but have different essential modal properties and, hence, different persistence conditions. In this paper, I address the problem of accounting for what it is about (...) the organization or structure of the universe that makes it sufficient to constitute the Divine Mind. Specifically, I consider what kind of unity the universe exhibits in virtue of which it constitutes the Divine Mind. I consider how Johnston’s hylomorphic account of the unity of composite objects might be applied to provide a solution and offer an alternative that emends the Johnstonian proposal I present by exploiting a variant of a neo-Aristotelian ontology of causal powers that takes properties to be powerful qualities. On the framework I defend, we can understand the universe as a constellation of powers that displays the sort of unity sufficient to truthfully described it as a Divine Mind. The approach I recommend will, however, ultimately lend itself to a pantheistic metaphysic of the divine rather than Johnston’s preferred panentheism. (shrink)