How agent-causation works III: from causal powers to agent-causation

Erasmus Mayr

in Understanding Human Agency

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199606214
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731631 | DOI:
How agent-causation works III: from causal powers to agent-causation

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On the basis of the theory of powers defended in the preceding chapters, an account of substance-causation and agent-causation is developed. First, the crucial distinction between active and passive powers is introduced for the case of inanimate substances and it is argued that when an active power is manifested, the substance possessing this power is the substance-cause of the ensuing effect. Substance-causation, so construed, is not reducible to event-causation, and must be considered as a genuine instance of causation because it possesses the characteristics traditionally connected with the notion of causation. The model of substance-causation is then transferred to the case of human agents, and it is argued that a human agent's abilities for physical action are his active powers, on whose manifestation he is the irreducible agent-cause of an effect. It is shown that the resulting model of agent-causation does not fall prey to the objections standardly levelled against agent-causal accounts, such as C.D.Broad's datability objection.

Keywords: substance-causation; inanimate substances; active powers; passive powers; agent-causation; datability objection; Broad

Chapter.  18384 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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