Metaphysical Foundations of Action Explanation

  • Ausonio Marras
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 266)


As is widely recognized, the publication of Donald Davidson’s “Actions, Reasons, and Causes” in 1963 marked the revival of the causal theory of action and action explanation — a theory which, in one guise or another, has gained wide, albeit not universal, acceptance. 1 According to the causal theory, an intentional action — an action that is performed for a reason (however trivial the reason) — is one that is caused by that reason; and to explain an action by citing the reasons for which it is performed is to give a causal explanation of the action. Whether the reasons that rationalize and cause the action can be fully accounted for in terms of the agent’s prevailing beliefs and desires, or whether other intentional states (such as occurring or sustaining intentions or volitions) must be posited, is still a matter of controversy among various authors;2 but the basic claim that there exists both a conceptual and a causal link between reasons and the actions they rationalize — i.e., that an action’s reasons are its causes — is indeed widely accepted.


Causal Explanation Action Explanation Causal Power Mental Property Mental Causation 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ausonio Marras
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Western OntarioCanada

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