From Power to Mind: An Argument from the Power to Do Otherwise

Gideon Yaffe

in Manifest Activity

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199268559
Published online August 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601415 | DOI:
From Power to Mind: An Argument from the Power to Do Otherwise

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  • History of Western Philosophy


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This chapter examines a second argument for Reid's claim that only a thing with a mind can be endowed with the power to bring an event about. The argument discussed here proceeds as follows: Anything that has a power to bring an event about also has the power to prevent that event from being brought about. A creature that has both these powers must also be capable of choosing between these two options on the basis of a preference for one over the other. But since only a creature with a mind is capable of forming preferences, it follows that only a creature with a mind can have a power. Like the argument discussed in ch. 1, Reid's employment of this argument reveals important philosophical commitments in his theory of action. In particular, it is argued that the argument depends on a particular construal of cases that seem, on their face, to involve agents with the power to act, but no power not to. The argument also depends on a view of the nature of preference, as distinguished from desire; Reid construes preferences as the psychological products of a rational process of weighing those things we desire.

Keywords: action; Choice; desire; event; mind; power; Reid

Chapter.  9323 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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