Is Davidson's Theory of Action Consistent?
journal contributionposted on 21.05.2021, 16:13 by Robert D Murray
A theory of human action should provide an account of the connection between reason and action when an agent acts for a reason, and it should provide an account of the explanatory force of explanations of actions. On the causal theory of action, the connection between reasons and actions is that of event causality and explanations of actions are modeled on ordinary causal explanations, where events are explained by citing other events as their causes. A once common objection to the causal theory had it that reasons cannot be causes, since explanations of actions do not fit reason and action into a nomic nexus expressed by laws or law-like generalizations. Against this train of thought, Donald Davidson defends a version of the causal theory by arguing that the view that the connection between reasons and actions is that of event causality and the view that explanations of actions do not fit reasons and actions into a nomic nexus are compatible. Davidson's theory generated a small industry of criticism focusing on the implications of his version of the causal theory for the nature of the causal connection between reasons and actions.