How agent-causation works I: the problem, and a brief theory of powers

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 I: the problem, and a brief theory of powers

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In this chapter, the author begins to develop a positive agent-causal account of human agency. Due to the widespread scepticism about the conceptual possibility and explanatory value of agent-causation, this account must begin with some negative clearing work, which consists in answering a highly influential argument, developed by Donald Davidson; this argument, to many philosophers, rules out the possibility of agent-causation from the start, but is shown to rest on questionable and unestablished presuppositions, in particular, the validity of Hume's regularity theory of causation. In the second section of the chapter the author starts to develop a causal powers account of agent-causation, presenting a brief theory of powers and arguing that we should accept them as genuine properties.

Keywords: agent-causation; Davidson; regularity theory of causation; Hume; powers; eliminativism

Chapter.  14180 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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