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When we act for a reason, is the reason a cause of our action? Is explaining an action by means of giving the reason for which it is done, a kind of causal explanation? The view that it is not will cite the existence of a logical relation between an action and its reason: it will say that an action would not be the action it is if it did not get its identity from its place in an intentional plan of the agent (it would just be a piece of behaviour, not explicable by reasons at all). Reasons and actions are not the ‘loose and separate’ events between which causal relations hold. The contrary view, espoused by Davidson in his influential paper ‘Actions, Reasons, and Causes’ (1963), claims that the existence of a reason is a mental event, and unless this event is causally linked to the acting we could not say that it is the reason for which the action is performed; actions may be performed for one reason rather than another, and the reason that explains them is the one that was causally efficacious in prompting the action.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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