Action as Settling: Some Objections

Helen Steward

in A Metaphysics for Freedom

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199552054
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738838 | DOI:
Action as Settling: Some Objections

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This chapter explores some possible objections to the idea that actions are agents’ settlings of hitherto unsettled questions—and considers the case for a deflationary compatibilist understanding of what settling involves, based on a broadly causal theory of action. It is concluded eventually, however, that there are good reasons for thinking that such compatibilist manoeuvres are bound to be unsatisfactory, for a number of important reasons. The reasons include the problem of deviant causal chains, Velleman’s problem of the disappearing agent, and the general worry that not all actions in fact have the mental antecedents that compatibilist-inspired analyses of action tend to suppose. The chapter also contains a consideration of the relevance of Libet’s experimental results to the account of action on offer, arguing that in fact the account is well placed smoothly to absorb those findings.

Keywords: action; settling; compatibilism; causal theory of action; deviant causal chains; disappearing agent; Velleman; Libet

Chapter.  15400 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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