How We Act: Causes, Reasons, and Intentions

Hardcover | November 21, 2003

byBerent Enc

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How We Act presents a compelling picture of human action as part of the natural causal order of the world. Berent Enc eschews any appeal to special capacities supposedly unique to rational agents, such as agent causation or irreducible acts of volition, and appeals to analogous positions inepistemology and the theory of perception, showing why it is a mistake to subscribe to such capacities. Although aspects of the causal theory of action have been adopted and defended by many empiricist philosophers, none has given as sustained and as thorough a defence as Enc offers in this book. His defence begins with a foundationalist definition of action that rests on a theory of basic acts,conceived here as derived from empirical studies of animal behaviour. Basic acts are complex units that agents acquire as part of their repertoire of things they can readily do - things with which practical syllogisms end. Having set out the details of his causal theory, Enc proceeds to propose solutions for two remaining problems. The first is a general and a complete solution to the problem of the so-called deviant causal chains. The second is a solution to the problem of "the disappearance of the agent". Thecausal theory presents the agent as a mere conduit for a causal chain - the agent seems to lose its active role. This problem is addressed by contrasting hard-wired and conditioned behaviour with behaviour that is the result of deliberation, and a purely causal model of deliberative reasoning isprovided. How We Act is careful to allay fears that its causal theory threatens our common-sense notion that we act of our own free will, but it remains highly provocative and original. Anyone working on human action, in philosophy and also in cognitive and behavioural psychology, will find much to stimulatethem here.

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How We Act presents a compelling picture of human action as part of the natural causal order of the world. Berent Enc eschews any appeal to special capacities supposedly unique to rational agents, such as agent causation or irreducible acts of volition, and appeals to analogous positions inepistemology and the theory of perception, sh...

Berent Enc was Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison until his death in January 2003.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:220 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.75 inPublished:November 21, 2003Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199256020

ISBN - 13:9780199256020

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Volitions2. Basic Actions3. The Causal Theory Revisited4. Deviance5. A Causal Model of Deliberation6. Intentions7. Autonomy, the Will, and FreedomReferences

Editorial Reviews

`A significant contribution to action theory, and, in particular, a naturalist understanding of agency. Anyone who wishes to assess the virtues and limitations of a causal theory of action, whatever his or her sympathies, will profit from giving this book an attentive reading.'John Bishop, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews