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By John and Helen Steward, editors Hyman

This choice of unique essays through prime philosophers covers the complete diversity of the philosophy of motion.

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Extra info for Agency and Action (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement; 55)

Sample text

5. The explanation is normative because someone who wields it is displaying a capacity to distinguish between those things that are comprehensibly taken to be goods and those that are not, or because it appeals to normative laws. This last one, which we have reached by a process of gradual elimination, seems to me to be defensible, indeed to be correct. Its relevance is that an explanation of action is only effective to the extent that it reveals a comprehensible good (that is, something that can be comprehensibly taken to be a good, even if it is not actually a good).

But none of these slides and confusions is as powerful as the outlook which encourages them and which they encourage. From this outlook, the only possible reality is one in which any causal fact fits into an account in which everything that does any causal work is an event or state. Thus the correct and ordinary idea that to explain what human beings do is to give a kind of causal explanation is thought to be amenable to reconstruction as the idea that some events have causes belonging in a category of psychological occurrences.

Now p here could be more or less simple. It might just be 'it is time to have lunch' or it might be 'having lunch would be good and now is the moment'. This is just a contrast between a more and a less complex belief. Now my own view is that if action is caused by any mental state, that state could be purely cognitive. But the position one would expect to find favoured by those who want to promote the sort of causal explanation that I am here discussing would claim that we need both belief and desire if an action is to ensue.

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