SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Actions Deviating from Selection History. A Teleofunctionalist Solution to the Problem of Deviant Causal Chains of Actions
(Philosophy of Mind, English)

According to Donald Davidson's causal theory of actions, actions must be rationalized and caused by a belief-desire pair. One problem of such a causal theory are deviant causal chains. In some scenarios all of the causal theory's conditions are met, but the behavior intuitively seems to be no action. In these cases, the behavior is not caused in the "right" way, but via a deviant causal chain. For example, a climber might want to kill his partner and believe he can do this by loosening his hold on the rope. This makes him so nervous that he starts to sweat and accidently loosens his hold without having decided to do it. oth conditions of Davidson's causal theory are fulfilled; the loosening is rationalized and caused via the detour of nervousness by his belief-desire pair, but we would intuitively deny that the climber acted. Theories of action must exclude such cases from actions and must determine what deviant causal chains are deviating from. To meet both challenges, I propose to supplement the causal theory with an additional teleofunctionalist condition that shifts the focus to the selection history of beliefs and desires. I analyze deviating causal chains as causal chains deviating from the way actions were typically caused in the selection history. My proposed additional condition thus requires that actions must be caused by belief-desire pairs in a selection-historically normal way. As I will argue, this condition drops counterintuitive cases of deviant causal chains out of the class of actions because in cases like the climber, the behavior is plausibly not caused in a selection-historically normal way. Additionally, there are cases in which causal detours are, nevertheless, intuitively the "right" way. For example, a weightlifter who only manages to lift the barbell via the detour of nervousness still acted. I argue that my proposal can also handle such cases because there can be different selection-historically normal ways in different contexts.

Chair: Martin Niederl
Time: 16:50-17:20, 07 September 2022 (Wednesday)
Location: HS E.002

Jakob Roloff 
(Justus-Liebig-University Giessen , Germany)

Testability and Meaning deco