Free Will pp 99-109 | Cite as

Are Actions Events?

  • D. J. O’Connor
Part of the Problems of Philosophy book series


one of the premises in the standard determinist argument that was set out earlier is that all actions are events. And it would, of course, be an adequate refutation of the argument to show that this premise was false. Attempts to show the falsity of the statement that all actions are events have been common in recent philosophy. Let us consider a given piece of behavior—say, a man signing his name. This consists of a number of neural and muscular events with consequent movements of the pen and making of marks on paper. Let us assume that these events can be explained as a causal sequence, as no doubt they can. Then we have explained a piece of behavior deterministically by analyzing it into a series of events that are linked in a causal chain or network. But this explanation is certainly not the explanation of an action. For precisely the same physical movements may constitute any of a wide range of different actions. The man signing his name may, for example, be signing his will or a marriage register or a death warrant or a check, and so on; or he may simply be testing a new pen or narcissistically contemplating his own calligraphy. Thus it is clear that the explanation of a piece of behavior cannot be the explanation of the action that embodies it.


Conscious State Brain State Logical Connection Conceptual Connection Brain Event 
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© D. J. O’Connor 1971

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  • D. J. O’Connor

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