Things That Happen Because They Should: A Teleological Approach to Action

Hardcover | April 30, 1999

byRowland Stout

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Philosophers have usually argued that the right way to explain people's actions is in terms of their beliefs and intentions rather than in terms of objective facts. Rowland Stout takes the opposite line in his account of action. Appeal to teleology is widely regarded with suspicion, but DrStout argues that there are things in nature, namely actions, which can be teleologically explained: they happen because they serve some end. Moreover, this teleological explanation is externalist: it cites facts about the world, not beliefs and intentions which only represent the world. Suchexternalism about the explanation of action is a natural partner to externalism about knowledge and about reference, but has hardly ever been considered seriously before. One dramatic consequence of such a position is that it opens up the possibility of a behaviourist account of beliefs andintentions.

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Philosophers have usually argued that the right way to explain people's actions is in terms of their beliefs and intentions rather than in terms of objective facts. Rowland Stout takes the opposite line in his account of action. Appeal to teleology is widely regarded with suspicion, but DrStout argues that there are things in nature, ...

Rowland Stout is Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Oriel College, Oxford. He was previously Lecturer in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Polytechnic of the South Bank, London; Research Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Leeds; and Lecturer in Philosophy at Merton College, Oxford.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:200 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.67 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198240635

ISBN - 13:9780198240631

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. The Possibility of Externalist Explanation of Action2. Causal Explanation3. Teleological Explanation4. Practical Justification5. AgencyReferencesIndex

Editorial Reviews

This book presents a new theory of action according to which the teleological character of an action constitutes it as an action./ ... Stout's theory appears to be a rather powerful one. With a flexible notion of process, he is able to explain how actions are not just isolated events butrather fit 'inside' one another such that one can provide goals and justifications for others .../ ... the book certainly merits the close reading it requires and will undoubtedly leave its mark on contemporary discussions of action. Its chief contribution will be to turn the discussions of actiontoward a more classical and, more importantly, a richer understanding of human agency./ David M. Gallagher, Catholic University of America/ International Philosophical Quarterly/ Vol 39, No. 1, March 1999.