Natural Agency: An Essay on the Causal Theory of Action

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Overview

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.
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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

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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.

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