Book

Essays on Actions and Events

Donald Davidson

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246274
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191715198 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199246270.001.0001

Series: The Philosophical Essays of Donald Davidson (5 Volumes)

Essays on Actions and Events

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This volume collects Davidson's seminal contributions to the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of action. Its overarching thesis is that the ordinary concept of causality we employ to render physical processes intelligible should also be employed in describing and explaining human action. In the first of three subsections into which the papers are thematically organized, Davidson uses causality to give novel analyses of acting for a reason, of intending, weakness of will, and freedom of will. The second section provides the formal and ontological framework for those analyses. In particular, the logical form and attending ontology of action sentences and causal statements is explored. To uphold the analyses, Davidson urges us to accept the existence of non‐recurrent particulars, events, along with that of persons and other objects. The final section employs this ontology of events to provide an anti‐reductionist answer to the mind/matter debate that Davidson labels ‘anomalous monism’. Events enter causal relations regardless of how we describe them but can, for the sake of different explanatory purposes, be subsumed under mutually irreducible descriptions, claims Davidson. Events qualify as mental if caused and rationalized by reasons, but can be so described only if we subsume them under considerations that are not amenable to codification into strict laws. We abandon those considerations, collectively labelled the ‘constitutive ideal of rationality’, if we want to explain the physical occurrence of those very same events; in which case we have to describe them as governed by strict laws. The impossibility of intertranslating the two idioms by means of psychophysical laws blocks any analytically reductive relation between them. The mental and the physical would thus disintegrate were it not for causality, which is operative in both realms through a shared ontology of events.

Keywords: action explanation; anomalous monism; antireductionism; constitutive ideal of rationality; causality; events; intending; logical form; psychophysical laws; weakness of will

Book.  346 pages. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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Table of Contents

Actions, Reasons, and Causes in Essays on Actions and Events

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How Is Weakness of the Will Possible? in Essays on Actions and Events

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Agency in Essays on Actions and Events

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Freedom to Act in Essays on Actions and Events

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Intending in Essays on Actions and Events

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The Logical Form of Action Sentences in Essays on Actions and Events

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Causal Relations in Essays on Actions and Events

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The Individuation of Events in Essays on Actions and Events

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Events as Particulars in Essays on Actions and Events

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Eternal vs. Ephemeral Events in Essays on Actions and Events

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