8.3333 Action, Reasons, and Causes (KOGW-MWPM-PHIL)


Type Language Semester Credits Hours Room Time Term Year
S e 5 4 2 Fr 10-12 W 2017
BSc: optional compulsory (Wahlpflichtbereich)
BSc examination field: Philosophy of Cognition / of Mind (KOGW-WPM-PHIL)
MSc: Major subject
MSc major: Philosophy of Mind and Cognition


Some things just happen, some things are done. It is very important for us as human beings to think of ourselves as agents who actively bring about something, in contrast to, say, leaves being blown around by the wind. But what is the difference between actions and pure events? To begin with, it seems that actions are performed by subjects for reasons. It is possible to make some rational sense of them, whereas pure events just happen for causes without any rational consideration behind it. If some person deliberately jumps from a tree, she has some (more or less) rational reasons for it: Perhaps she wants to impress her friends with a test of courage. On the other hand, a leave just falls down, as a result of natural causes.
But what is the exact relation between reasons and causes? Some philosophers think that reasons are just very particular causes - so that there is no principled difference between subjects and other very complex objects in nature and no principled difference between the sciences and the humanities. Others think that this is wrong and that rational reasons cannot be reduced to just a particular type of natural causes.
In this semianr, we want to read papers and book chapters from both perspectives. We will start with Donald Davidson`s seminar paper "Actions, Reasons, and Causes" which has had an enormous influence on the debate. We then will read papers from other prominent authors who partly react to Davidson and also have a strong impact on the current discussion (i.a. van Wright, Frankfurt, Dretske, Hutto, Velleman).
Participants should be ready to give a presentation on one of the papers; group presentations are possible. In addition, a written elaboration is required.

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