Chapter

A Compatibilist Account of Agent Causation

Dana Kay Nelkin

in Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608560
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729638 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608560.003.0005
A Compatibilist Account of Agent Causation

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This chapter addresses the metaphysics of free and responsible agency. Most theorists today presuppose a theory of causation according to which causes and effects are events of one kind or other (“event causation”), and human action is no different. A smaller group, almost exclusively composed of incompatibilists — those who deny that freedom and determinism are compatible — adopt a theory according to which the causes of human action are agents (“agent causation”), and not simply events involving them. This chapter presents a theory of responsibility that is compatible with either sort of theory of causation, and argues that there are distinct advantages to the latter, especially when we adopt a version that does not single out a kind of causation for human action that differs from the kind of causation found elsewhere in the world. The view set out provides a new way of looking at the long-running debate about agent causation and the metaphysics of freedom more generally.

Keywords: agent causation; event causation; human action; freedom; responsibility; compatibilism

Chapter.  7377 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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