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Volume 48 • Number 4

October 2011



Agent Causation and Acting for Reasons

by Rebekah L. H. Rice

The Agent-Causal Theory of Action claims that an event counts as an action when, and only when, it is caused by an agent. The central difference between the Causal Theory of Action (CTA) and the Agent-Causal view comes down to a disagreement about what sort of item (or items) occupies the left-hand position in the causal relation. For CTA, the left-hand position is occupied by mental items within the agent, typically construed in terms of mental events (e.g., belief/desire pairs or intentions). For the agent-causal theory, it is the agent herself (that is, a substance) which does the causing. Agent-causal theorists generally concede that some intentional actions involve causal relations that are best understood in eventcausal terms. Such intentional actions are "nonbasic," meaning that the agent does them by doing something else. But for any "basic" intentional action—behavior that, according to the agent-causal theorist, is caused directly by the agent—there is a causal relation between the agent, on the one hand, and the action, on the other, which is (i) primitive (not permitting of analysis) and (ii) irreducible to any other relation (including, importantly, the event-causal relation).

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ISSN: 2152-1123