Between Action and Reason

– Agent causation operates on the idea that there are basically two kinds of causation out there: agent causation (duh) and event causation. The former is what happens when I do something, the latter is what happens when something happens. To clarify, the former is an account of the action of the rational agent, the latter is an account of non-rational things.

– Right away we notice that the agent is rational. In this context, let’s take that to mean that the agent acts for reasons. Reasons serve an explanatory role in action. From the causal side, we can say that the agent produces his actions and his effects. This again serves to distinguish between agent and event causation – the latter simply automatically produces its effects. Agent causation is non-deterministic and non-nomic.

– Acting for reasons opens up another aspect of agent causation, the teleological. If I act for a reason, then I also act towards a goal.

– Crucial here is the holistic nature of agent causation. This is a non-reductive viewpoint – the agent and his actions can only be analyzed in terms of the person as a whole and not as the mere behaviour of the non-personal constituents of the person.

A short exposition of Timothy o’Connor’s philosophy of agent causation can be found here.

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