Preface

Reasons are causes, and reasons do not have arational descriptions. Yet how can this be so, given that reasons often have effects—like bodily motions—whose occurrence can be explained in arational terms?

I used to think about this strand of the mind-body problem differently: since rationalizing causes often have effects whose occurrence can be explained in arational terms, reasons must also have arational descriptions; and at least in humans, reasons must be complex biochemical events of some sort. From this perspective, the question is how biochemical events could have the properties that mental events do have. But I now think this is the wrong question to ask, in part because it seems unanswerable. We need not and probably cannot show how certain 'impersonal' causes—events describable without reference to a thinking subject of those events—could be mental causes. Borrowing a metaphor from Sellars, I suspect that causes visible in the manifest image are not there to be seen in the scientific image. This presents us with an intellectual problem: how can we maintain that reasons are sui generis in this sense, without falling into an objectionable dualism? But I think we can make progress on answering this question; whereas I see little prospect for attempts to identify reasons with events describable in impersonal terms.

In 1992, I started to develop the kind of non-Cartesian dualism presented here; and three times, I have been rescued from rushing too quickly into a book-length treatment. First, a conversation with Martin Davies helped me get over a misguided aversion to Frege's notion of sense, which I now rely on. A year or so later, I was asked to write a critical notice of John McDowell's book Mind and World; and although this postponed other work for a while, I learned much about the issues at stake. Finally, at an important juncture, I reread Jennifer Hornsby's book Actions. This led me to identify and abandon some of my assumptions about actions, with considerable ramifications for my views about mental causation. Then, for better or worse, it came to seem that it really was time to take on a sustained writing project.

That is, I went on sabbatical. My thanks to McGill University for releasing me from teaching and administrative duties in 1996-7, and to my then future colleagues at the University of Maryland for their hospitality. SSHRCC and FCAR provided welcome financial support during my time in Canada. Chapters 1 and 4 are revised versions of essays published in, respectively, Mind (107 (1998): 73-111) and British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (46 (1995): 81-110). My thanks to Oxford

-vii-

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Causing Actions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Causing Actions iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Actions as Inner Causes 18
  • 2: Fregean Innocence 55
  • 3: From Explanation to Causation 89
  • 4: Other Things Being Equal 117
  • 5: Personal Dualism 147
  • 6: Modal Concerns 179
  • 7: Natural Causes 216
  • Appendix 246
  • References 260
  • Index 271
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