Mental causation and rational agency /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Murray, Peter Rozum, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (273 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: James F. Conant; Jason Bridges Committee members: David Finkelstein; Eric Marcus.
This item is not available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: A.
Summary:My dissertation addresses a widespread worry about the possibility of rational agency, of acting for reasons. Rational agency, the worry goes, constitutively involves one's mind's having movements of one's body as physical effects, but if we can't explain how one's mind has effects in the physical world, then we can't make sense of rational agency. I argue, however, that the worry rests on a mistaken, if orthodox, view of the role of causation in rational agency. On the orthodox view, being intentional is an extrinsic, non-essential property that certain movements of an agent's body count as having in virtue of their causal origin in her mind. However, while intentional actions no doubt have causal antecedents---perhaps even mental causal antecedents---that fact, I argue, is not constitutive of their being intentional actions. A proper understanding of the explanatory work that is done in agent's-reasons explanations of intentional actions---namely, I argue, that they function to explain an intentional action's kind, not its occurrence---shows that what is constitutive of intentional actions being the intentional actions they are is their rationally-ordered, means-end structure. Being intentional, on my account, is an intrinsic, essential feature of intentional actions, and antecedent episodes of rational deliberation about what to do, and subsequent intentional actions of doing what was decided upon, are related not as cause and effect, but as relatively earlier and later stages of a unitary process of rational action. My view thus defuses the direct threat to the intelligibility of rational agency that is posed by the putative need to explain how the mind can cause bodily movements, because acting for a reason is not constituted by such a causal transaction on my view.