SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

SOPhiA ToolsDE-pageEN-page

Programme - Talk

Agency and Causation
(Philosophy of Mind, English)

Broadly construed, agency is a power to bring about change, to make things happen, to make a difference, or more simply to act. Bringing about a change is to cause an event or change, and in turn, this is to manifest a causal power. One of the main points of contention in the metaphysics of agency between event-causal reductionists and agent-causal antireductionists concerns what this "bringing about" consists in. While antireductionists maintain that agents' actions can be analyzed as bringing about of changes by agents which constitute fundamental instances of agent causation, reductionists attempt to reduce this relation of "bringing about" to a causal relation between events.

Admittedly, the project of giving an account of how relations of agent causation are ontologically realized in an event-causal order is puzzling. For its prime motivation derives from a sort of naturalism on the account of which the "natural causal order" is purely event causal (see Velleman 2015; Bratman 2001; Schlosser 2010; Bishop 1989). However, it is unclear why we should consider the thesis that causal connections only obtain between events as a scientific rather than a philosophical view (Alvarez and Hyman 1998, 227-228). So, if it has to be more than a mere article of faith, it better be supported by further considerations. One such consideration, which appears to be implicit in reductionist accounts, to support the project of ontological reduction would ensue from reflection on the way we typically experience causation and establish causal connections. However, as I shall briefly argue in this talk, the reductionist project turns out to be rather unmotivated upon considering both the way we typically observe and establish causal connections in everyday life and how we report them. In short, the main claim of this piece is that, since causal connections between events enjoy neither a conceptual nor a semantical priority nor an epistemic priority over causal relations between agents and patients, the project of showing that event causation has ontological priority over agent causation remains poorly motivated. This is not to argue that the reductionist thesis is false, but rather to question the grounds on which the project of reduction relies.

Chair: Jakob Roloff
Time: 10:40-11:10, 08 September 2022 (Thursday)
Location: HS E.002
Remark: (Online Talk)

Robin Timothee Bianchi 
(University of Neuchatel, Switzerland)

Testability and Meaning deco