Natural Agency: An Essay on the Causal Theory of Action

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $43.93
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 20%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (6) from $43.93   
  • New (4) from $43.93   
  • Used (2) from $48.76   


From a moral point of view we think of ourselves as capable of responsible actions. From a scientific point of view we think of ourselves as animals whose behavior, however highly evolved, conforms to natural scientific laws. Natural Agency argues that these different perspectives can be reconciled, despite the skepticism of many philosophers who have argued that free will is impossible under scientific determinism. This skepticism is best overcome according to the author, by defending a causal theory of action, that is by establishing that actions are constituted by behavioral events with the appropriate kind of mental causal history. He sets out a rich and subtle argument for such a theory and defends it against its critics. Thus the book demonstrates the importance of philosophical work in action theory for the central metaphysical task of understanding our place in nature.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bishop presents his theory in great detail. His discussion is always rich, subtle, insightful, helpfully repetitive (he often stops to remind us just what stage his inquiry has reached), well written (technical without being overwhelming and with a minimum of non-English formulae), well informed (his references to the literature, some of it very recent, are plentiful and apt), and fair-minded (for a compatibilist, he is admirably sensitive to incompatibilist concerns). In addition, the book is attractively and carefully produced...In sum, it is a book very much worth reading." The Philosophical Review

"Overall the views that Bishop advances are plausible, and the supporting argumentation is both very circumspect and very forceful. The organization is also excellent, and the clear and eloquent style of writing makes the book a pleasure to read. It is, in my opinion, the best book in this area." Review of Metaphysics

"Bishop takes account of recent work on free agency and causality, makes use of it for his own purposes, but goes beyond it to a distinctive view of his own which is bound to stir up interest and show the way toward new developments." Michael Slote, University of Maryland

"This is a considerable achievement. Rigorous argument abounds, and illuminating discussions and lucid presentations of what has often seemed obscure material; and it is all written with a liveliness that captures and keeps one's attention. This is a book that displays mastery of the whole field of inquiry..." Graeme Marshall, Dialogue

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521063975
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/5/2008
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Philosophy Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; Introduction; Notes; Part I. The Problems of Natural Agency: 1. A theory in search of its problem; 2. Commitments of the ethical perspective; 3. Commitments of the natural perspective; 4. The core of the problem of action - and a plausible solution; Part II. The Value of a Causal Theory of Action: 1. A traditional approach to the problem of natural agency; 2. Is action possible under determination 3. Is action possible under indeterminism? 4. A comparison with Dennett's elbow room; 5. The conditional analysis argument; Part III. Developing a Causal Theory of Action: 1. Causal analyses of action; 2. The challenge of Akrasia; Part IV. The Challenge of Causal Deviance: Part V. Coping with Basic Deviance: 1. The promise of the sensitivity strategy 2. Alternative versions of the sensitivity strategy; 3. Assessing the sensitivity strategy 4. Sensitive and sustained causation; Part VI. Limits for the Causal Theory of Action: 1. Dealing with the Agent-Causationist syndrome; 2. The place of the causal theory of action in the wider project of reconciliatory naturalism; Bibliography; Index.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)