World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Action (philosophy)

Article Id: WHEBN0000317524
Reproduction Date:

Title: Action (philosophy)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Action, Determinism, Normative, I-Change Model, Drama
Collection: Action, Concepts in Metaphysics, Determinism, Free will, Motion (Physics)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Action (philosophy)

An action is something which is done by an agent. In common speech, the term action is often used interchangeably with the term behavior. In the philosophy of action, the behavioural sciences, and the social sciences, however, a distinction is made: behavior is defined as automatic and reflexive activity, while action is defined as intentional, purposive, conscious and subjectively meaningful activity . Thus, throwing a ball is an instance of action; it involves an intention, a goal, and a bodily movement guided by the agent. On the other hand, catching a cold is not considered an action because it is something which happens to a person, not something done by one.

Other events are less clearly defined as actions or not. For instance, distractedly drumming ones fingers on the table seems to fall somewhere in the middle. Deciding to do something might be considered a mental action by some. However, others think it is not an action unless the decision is carried out. Unsuccessfully trying to do something might also not be considered an action for similar reasons (for e.g. lack of bodily movement). It is contentious whether believing, intending, and thinking are actions since they are mental events.

Some would prefer to define actions as requiring bodily movement (see behaviorism). The side-effects of actions are considered by some to be part of the action; in an example from Anscombe's manuscript Intention, pumping water can also be an instance of poisoning the inhabitants. This introduces a moral dimension to the discussion (see also Moral agency). If the poisoned water resulted in a death, that death might be considered part of the action of the agent that pumped the water. Whether a side-effect is considered part of an action is especially unclear in cases in which the agent isn't aware of the possible side effects. For example, an agent that accidentally cures a person by administering a poison he was intending to kill him with.

A primary concern of philosophy of action is to analyze the nature of actions and distinguish them from similar phenomena. Other concerns include individuating actions, explaining the relationship between actions and their effects, explaining how an action is related to the beliefs and desires which cause and/or justify it (see practical reason), as well as examining the nature of agency. A primary concern is the nature of free will and whether actions are determined by the mental states that precede them (see determinism). Some philosophers (e.g. Donald Davidson[1]) have argued that the mental states the agent invokes as justifying his action are physical states that cause the action. Problems have been raised for this view because the mental states seem to be reduce to mere physical causes. Their mental properties don't seem to be doing any work. If the reasons an agent cites as justifying his action, however, are not the cause of the action, they must explain the action in some other way or be causally impotent.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Davidson, D. Essays on Actions and Events, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2001a.

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 



Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.