Understanding Human Agency

Hardcover | October 1, 2011

byErasmus Mayr

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Our self-understanding as human agents includes a commitment to three crucial claims about human agency: that agents must be active, that actions are part of the natural order of the universe, and that intentional actions can be explained by the agent's reasons for acting. While all of theseclaims are indispensable elements of our view of ourselves as human agents, they are in continuous conflict and tension with one another, especially once one adopts the currently predominant view of what the natural order must be like. One of the central tasks of philosophy of action consists inshowing how, despite appearances, these conflicts can be resolved and our self-understanding as agents be vindicated. The mainstream of contemporary philosophy of action holds that this task can only be fulfilled by an event-causal reductive view of human agency, paradigmatically embodied in the so-called 'standard model' developed by Donald Davidson. Erasmus Mayr, in contrast, develops a new agent-causal solutionto these conflicts and shows why this solution is superior both to event-causalist accounts and to Von Wright's intentionalism about agency. He offers a comprehensive theory of substance-causation on the basis of a realist conception of powers, which allows one to see how the widespread rejection ofagent-causation rests on an unfounded 'Humean' view of nature and of causal processes. At the same time, Mayr addresses the question of the nature of reasons for acting and complements its substance-causal account of activity with a non-causal account of acting for reasons in terms of following a standard of success.

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Our self-understanding as human agents includes a commitment to three crucial claims about human agency: that agents must be active, that actions are part of the natural order of the universe, and that intentional actions can be explained by the agent's reasons for acting. While all of theseclaims are indispensable elements of our view...

Erasmus Mayr is Lecturer in Philosophy at Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich. He studied philosophy and law in Munich and Oxford, and received the Wolfgang-Stegmuller Award of the German Society for Analytical Philosophy (GAP) in 2009 for his PhD thesis.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:328 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.03 inPublished:October 1, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199606218

ISBN - 13:9780199606214

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. The Problem of Human Agency2. The Agenda for Finding a Solution3. 'Alien' Desires and Frankfurt's Problem of Identification4. Identification, Desires, and Practical reasoning5. Deviant Causal Chains6. How Agent-Causation Works I: The Problem, and a Brief Theory of Powers7. How Agent-Causation Works II: The irreducibility of powers8. How Agent-Causation Works III: From Causal Powers to Agent-Causation9. Are Agent-Causal Powers reducible to Microproperties?10. Intentional Agency and Acting for Reasons11. Understanding Human AgencyReferencesIndex