TEL-AVIV UNIVERSITY Faculty of Humanities Department of Philosophy

THE CAUSAL STRUCTURE OF ACTION

This work is presented as a thesis towards the M.A. degree

by

Asher Idan 1982

This work has been carried out under the supervision of Prof. Marcelo Dascal

December 1981

sociology. At this point. The dam has been destroyed (natural event) because of the heavy rain (natural event). I will only present a few examples and show some of the presuppositions behind them. "creation" and "action" are problematic. the philosophy of science. Raz. etc. J. psychology and history)". or the reasons which bring about the beginning of an action? The terms "cause". Causes and reasons: One of the formulas in everyday language to which these terms are connected is "P because q". "beginning". ethics. These terms were used in domains such as the philosophy of action. "brings about". metaphysics. 4. I bought an umbrella (human action) because of the heavy rain (natural event). I will not define these terms. I concluded that the teacher is not an expert (a proposition) because I thought that he doesn't understand the subject (a proposition). Practical Reasoning The central question which will be discussed in my work is: What are the causes which cause. 2. They have many meanings and uses which point to different theories and presuppositions. psychology. Examples are: 1. 3. I left the class (human action) because I thought that the teacher doesn't understand the subject (a proposition). "reason".1 ABSTRACT "The problem of causality lies at the foundation of all the sciences which attempt to provide a systematic explanation of human behavior (such as economics. . theology.

What are the kinds of "because" in 2 and 3? 2 is not pure causal as in 1 since we have an intuition that the heavy rain didn't cause deterministically and exclusively the bringing of an umbrella. We must at least add my decision to buy an umbrella. both of whom argue that all kinds of "because" are of a logical kind) or by reducing reasons to causes (radical behaviorists who will say that all kinds of "because" are of a causal kind). The presuppositions which stand behind the problematic explanation of examples 2 and 3 can be explicated by pointing to the following three "paradigms" in the philosophy of action: A. because in the same situation. we find two "kinds" of because: "causal because" and "logico-semantical because". too. I could decide to buy a coat. B. in a sense. In 3 my opinion had some causal function. In 3 the "because" relation is not purely logico-semantical as in 4. There are no differences between causes and reasons. as an actor. Sometimes "q" is a cause (example 1) and sometimes it is a reason (example 4). Either by reducing causes to reasons (Schopenhauer and. can only conclude that "9 is the cause of P" (Taylor. Spinoza. . 3) Reasons are usually connected with normativity while causes are connected with descriptivity (Bar-On.2 In the formula. There are differences between causes and reasons of the following kind: 1) I. Examples 2 and 3. the term "because" is ambiguous. 1974). as an observer. since we have an intuition that my opinion (or thought) about the teacher can be regarded as a reason that caused me to leave the class. 2) Reasons are parts of a rule-governed human activity while causes are not (Wittgenstein). or of a proposition and an action (example 3). as well as in the examples. 1975). I think that this "paradigm" doesn't have a clear answer to the question of what kinds of "because" occur in examples 2 and 3 (Why?). are problematic since there we find a mixture of an event and an action (example 2). however. It is common to say that the connection between events is causal (example 1) and the connection between propositions is logico-semantical (example 4). have an experience of my reason while I. it moved my body out of the class. Thus.

a human situation (like fear of hunger). B. Since an action is the central concept in my work. and mainly Marx. Each kind has a characteristic combination of components and "mechanisms". or by a nervous spasm. are the most comprehensive and adequate solutions. reasons and creation. while in other theories as more than the simple sum of the parts of x. Creation and beginning: The creation of x can be regarded in some theories as a simple sum of the parts of x. the "because" in examples 2 and 3 is of a dual kind: it is a causal-logical relation (Danto 1976. Actions are connected with events and with propositions. Action: Action is usually distinguished from the following things: A. Theories about the beginning have connections with theories about causes. B. a spontaneous movement of a limb (heart's beats). I will do the same about the presuppositions which stand behind the different meanings and uses of the term "action". compare and criticize the different solutions to the central problem. Thus. D. or that at a certain point in time or space y has triggered an already existing x to appear. I will characterize it positively throughout my presentation of the different solutions to the central problem. actions will be discovered as complex entities of different kinds. to point to what. "x began because y" can mean either that x was created by y. Here I characterize an action only negatively. and other philosophers of praxis). * * * I will discuss. Thus. conducted mainly in the current century.3 C. The objectives are two-fold: A. In the course of my work. in my opinion. or by another human being. to bring together the main points made in the wide and renewed philosophical discussion. I conclude my analysis with an outline for a unified theory of the causal structure and dynamics of action. Only an action can bridge the gap between the physical-causal and the intentional (or mental)-logical. a natural event. C. especially after World War II. Bergson. * * * . a human movement which was physically caused by a natural event (man that falls because of a strong wind).

Davidson answered that reasons can cause actions. although they are not causes of a physical kind. and this x (reason. the agent is the cause of his/her actions. are vague and inconsistent. that causes my limb (or part of it) to wave. or in a basic action. By pointing to reasons as the causes of actions. and how the process of this causing happens? I think that this is analogical to the fruitful question: But what is the atom that can scatter . Nevertheless. experience. Danto presents the concept of basic action in order to avoid the need for causes which begin every action.) can be the cause which we are looking for in our central question. Davidson can answer most of Ryle's questions. Danto and Davidson were two of the first philosophers who tried to cope with the challenge of Ryle and Wittgenstein. Chisholm and Taylor answer to Ryle's and Wittgenstein's questions by their theories of immanent causality of the agent. the agent has a special "power" of "immanent causality". etc. intention. But what is in a reason. of course. According to their theories. is what is this "x"!!). we can go on and ask about these three answers. Ryle argues that the theories which claim that volitions are the causes of actions. Wittgenstein sharpened the central problem by asking: What remains from "I raise my arm" after we subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm? I see Wittgenstein's question as a version of our central problem since it can be formulated as: What is the cause (or reason) which begins the raising of my arm? An answer to Wittgenstein's question can be that "what remains" is a certain x (The question. In Chapter 2 I begin by introducing Ryle's and Wittgenstein's criticism of traditional volitional theories of action (and of mentalistic theories in general). or in an agent.4 Chapter 1 includes both a primary clarification of the central question and a summary of the main answer to it. To Wittgenstein he can say that "what remains" is the reason. Reasons are less deterministic causes than physical causes. Basic actions can be performed or can begin but can not be caused by something. Thus.

Leibniz argues that every body of particle has inherent movements in different degrees (against Descartes who relied on a strict dichotomy between the inert and the moving). Praxiologically. I argue that Ryle's criticism and the answers considered in the preceding chapter. In Chapter 3.5 particles so widely. Husserl and Schutz. There is a special kind of connection between the "mental" and the "physical". This connection is gradual and two-directional. or from a balanced situation (against Bayle). Intentions or volitions alone can not cause limbs to move. There is no exclusive cause which begins an action from a "resting situation" (Leibniz directed this argument against Locke. and the "physical" is intensified by the growth of the degree of movement. he argues that every body or particle has "small perceptions" in different degrees of consciousness (against Descartes who relied on the dichotomy between the mental which is conscious and the physical which is unconscious). Leibniz argues that an action can begin or be cause as a result of combinations of more conscious and less conscious processes and events (process is a serial and/or structural event). The "mental" (in Descartes' paradigm) is not always the "mover" of the "physical" and vice-versa. were concerned mainly with the "Cartesian paradigm" in philosophy. Epistemologically. The "mental" is intensified by the growth of consciousness to the "small perceptions". It is a result of a gradual process of growth in the degree of movement and of consciousness. Ryle's criticism is a partial one since it is directed to volitional theories within the "Cartesian paradigm". and how the process of scattering happens? The answers to these questions are no less than Bohr's theory. Thus. which was the beginning of nuclear physics. and I also apply it against Danto). A little growth of the one contributes to a little growth of the other and vice-versa. But there is a competitive "Leibnizian paradigm" which was modified by "pre-analytical" philosophers like Bergson. . we have here a kind of "feedback process". Leibniz thinks that an action neither begins nor is created absolutely. I present Leibniz's solution to the central problem. Ontologically.

by introducing two central notions: a system of typicality and a system of relevance. In a given situation. Philosophers belonging to the "cortesian paradigm" do not investigate action in its "natural" and everyday context (a person who goes to work. our intentions. in chapter 7. This structure leads from plurality in the lower levels to a relative unity in the higher levels. action is a result of an emergetic enlargement of a whole which is composed of many components.S. Later. I shall show how Apostel explicates this "emergentic entity". beliefs. According to Husserl. Schulz adds social factors to the "Leibnizian paradigm". Of course. we can find in the higher level a unity which is the object of intentionality towards which the action is directed and intended. etc. etc. It is like an apple (or like drops of rain/ or like a snowball) which grows gradually as a result of many components and at a certain point falls from the tree. Husserl made an important contribution to the philosophy of action by emphasizing the importance of Brentano's notion of intentionality. But they are only partial causes. In this context. Mill). He emphasized the importance of the biography of a person and of his society to the causal structure of his actions. Bergson modifies Lebniz's theory of the small and unconscious perceptions.). a dancer in his performances.6 In Chapter 4. are components in that process. reasons. which is directed to the object of intentionality. the person has an intentional-hierarchical field where the lower level is directed to the higher level and the higher level "organizes" the lower level. In the "natural context" there are a series of movements with many causes before them and with many purposes towards which these movements are directed. and emphasizes movement as a primary quality of every organism.. I present solutions of preanalytical philosophers. an isolated movement of a finger) or in hospital. typical of an introspective philosopher or of a scientist in a laboratory (the raising of an arm. Action is not a result of intentions or volitions which precede an action (against J. but in an "artificial context". An action begins after a gradual process of concentration of the agent from peripheral and unfocussed intentionality to a central and focussed one. volitions. .

In chapter 6. There is a need for distinguishing between propositional volitions which usually are the focus of the phenomenal field and nonpropositional volitions which are in the periphery.) 3. intention-before-action which is very important for understanding the causal structure of action. Sellars characterizes action by two factors: A. He makes a synthesis of ideas from phenomenology with ideas from analytical philosophy and clarifies the conceptual background for our central problem. These are sophisticated volitional theories since they try to cope with the challenges of Ryle and Wittgenstein. James). or for a "whole" set of actions. a volition x to do y will not necessarily cause y.) for every action. Searle distinguishes between two kinds of intentions: A. violitions are a kind of talk without sound. An action can be caused by a primary volition or by a secondary volition. Goldman's theory is particularly sophisticated since it goes a long way towards a synthesis between ideas from the analytical philosophy of action and ideas from pre analytical philosophy of action (especially W. I show that this distinction is parallel to Searle's distinction between Intention-beforeaction and Intention-in-action. An agent does not fit a propositional volition (like: "I will do x now". 2. especially the concept of Intentionality. This property enables the agent to begin. (In chapter 6. Goldman begins by criticizing Sellars' "correspondence theory" which connects volitions to actions. it is something which is caused by a volition. Primary volition is a kind of memory (which can be voluntary) of an accidental action which was performed earlier (W. James called it an Image-Response).7 In chapter 5. B. I discuss Searle's analysis and use of certain concepts from the phenomenological tradition. . This kind of intention has the property of self-reference of the representational content of the intention-before-action. I return to the discussion of volitional theories belonging to the analytical tradition. Goldman argues that: 1. it can cause another action z. But.

body movement. has no "conflicts". reasons.. at a certain point. a coherent structure of field or gestalt can be created (coherent structure is a structure which. A lack of closeness between the content of the intention and the description of the action (movement + event. according to Searle.g.8 B. Only a coherent structure can cause an action according to the following scheme: . Intention-in-action which is less explicit than the first kind of action by ordering himself ("self-order"). Dascal and Gruengard think that not only semantics (closeness between content and description) can be used as a criterion for demarcation between action and non-action.g. when. Only combinations of many partial causes can cause an action in a natural context (Bergson). in a given situation we don't have a feeling of hunger and a reason or a will to be thin). are only partial causes of an action. I begin Chapter 7 by presenting Apostel's simple model of action. The relations between intentions and limbs and between limbs and objects are like relations between instrument and material (e. e. etc. can be regarded as an action. and an external event (like the falling of a stone). Apostel modifies some of Searle's ideas by his analysis of non-verbal contents (pictorial) of intentions and by pointing to the dynamical character of intentions. They have also extended the domain of the reference of intentionality from references to intnetional objects to references to intentional subjects. The existence of only one or two components does not generate an action. Only when certain combinations of partial causes which serve as instruments are directed to certain materials. a hammer and a wall). but also syntax and intonation. Only combinations of all three components: intentional experience. by means of which he begins to explicate the causal structure of action. which is caused by this intention) makes the process to be a non-action. Intentions. volitions.

‫‪9‬‬ ‫שרטוט‬ .

The levels of the objects of research which are the actions. will clarify. using statistical and/or fuzzy methods. which future research. their structure. In the following scheme we can see that intention-before-action (IBA) can ‫שרטוט‬ Function as a whole in comparison to some intention-in-action (IIA).. Among the constraints and causes of the combinations of the intentional field there are reasons. etc. Some of the theories see only the "tree" (volutional theories) and others see only the "forest" (agent theories). The mereological analysis enables Apostel to investigate action not in a dichotomic way but in a hierarchical one. limbs. Apostel's view is a mereological one which investigates the relations between wholes and their parts in two levels: I. Apostel does not define exactly how constraint x causes combination y. roles. and the self. etc. volitions. the intentional field can organize and combine intentions.. the previous theories seem to be partial solutions to the central problem. actions. I think that these are very complex relations and connections. We can continue hierarchy up and down. volitions.e. beliefs. i. and simultaneously as a part in comparison to the agent. in a characteristic structure in a certain situation. and the whole is the person. The whole in level n functions as a part in relation to level n+1. reasons. feelings. The person can function as a part in comparison to . and their causes: Here the parts are intentions. "partial causes". objects.10 In a similar way to a given electric field which can organize particles of metal in a characteristic structure in space. From the point of view of the analysis of Searle and Apostel.

not single track dispositions but. . . an intention. In a given situation. writes: "the higher-grade dispositions of people with which this inquiry is largely concerned are. a volition and a representation. indefinitely heterogeneous.11 the family. if the personality of a (the organized and directed gestalt) causes the organization of I and if the connection between the different parts of the personality of a causes this intention to be executed by the body of a. for example. in level n–1: a hand. etc. 7 and 8. IIA can also function as a whole in comparison to its sub-intentions (as Searle showed). . etc. The question of the upper and the lower limits has been discussed in chapters 6. . in general. and subintentions to synaptic transfers. A certain reason can function in level n as an organizer. and a family as a part to society." (1949:44) These characteristics of the structure of action enable the person to be flexible and 'creative' in his actions. in an organized way. This hierarchial structure is connected to the complexity and heterogenity of the structure of action. Ryle. for example. . a person can have. ‫שרטוט‬ Apostel closes the discussion of the "object level" by defining the connection between person and action: An agent a has an intention i and he performs behavior b which realizes i.

reasons. directional. Theory of time and change (Nowakowska's theory. Theory of personality which will integrate existing theories from psychology and phenomenology. 2. In the structure of a procedure. 7. In chapter 8. etc. (without reference to the world or to the person). This semantics can include semantics of language (or of symbols) which investigates the relations between representations (which can be parts of intentions) and the world. 8. unconscious processes. and through the person to the world. dynamical and modular way. etc. Semantics of action that investigates the relations between actions. and other extralinguistic entities. intentions. etc. the structure is also modular (as in modular furniture where a shelf of a library can function as a table or can be used as a part of a closet). 1981). receiver of social roles. 6. wills. In a given procedure we can find in an organized way: intentions. 3. etc. user of symbols. intentional objects and subjects. level n can function as a tool which directs the material in level n-1. and the person. Logic which will be adequate for discussing actions. This theory will regard a person as a whole with the following parts: agent. Thus. . Procedures are a kind of rituals which organize physical. intentions. linguistic and intentional elements in a hierarchical. reasons. thinker. actions and persons. The structure is dynamical because what functions as a tool for purpose p 1 can "change" and become material for purpose p2. pragmatics of action that investigates the relations between actions.. etc.12 II. By this comprehensive and synthetic theory. and the world (without reference to the person). 5. The methodological level of Apostel's mereological discussion: Most of the previous theories can be combined as parts of a comprehensive theory (as a whole). intentions. intentions. Mereology which investigates the formal relations between parts and wholes. Theory of causality which will investigate the relations between events. user of tools. Apostel leads to what I call a universal progmatics or a philosophical theory of the person which includes: 1. 4. I outline a unified-procedural theory of action which will integrate some of the ideas from the previous chapters. Syntax of action which investigates the relations between actions.

the social and myself). not only action is dual but intentionality too. As a subject he can take part in causal processes of some other kind ("logico-semantical" in terms of Danto (1976).. a person is a dual being in two aspects: A. As an object he can take part in causal processes of a physical kind. or myself. "intentional". Thus. which can be regarded as materials of actions. My own intentions can also be used as instruments which can be directed to three causes (the physical. or the physical world. "normative" Bar-On (1975). Thus. and "epistemic actions". "rule governed". B. I have summarized the findings of my work about physical actions. linguistic (or semiatic) actions. Chisholm (1976) and Taylor (1974).g. Wittgenstein (1953). I try to explicate their structure and their components. society). Brentano. internal self-causality External physical or social-causality Object I raise my arm Someone or something raise my arm Subject I intend to change my opinion about x Someone (something) changes my opinion about x . e. I think I found the common structure of semiatical and physical actions by using the ideas of Dascal and Gruengard for extending the scope of the intentionality from objects to subjects. He can move himself and can be moved by causes. He is an object and a subject. Davidson (1974). In the case of self-intentionality (which includes self-reference) the intentionality is directed to my self or to my body (subject or object). Thus.13 Before presenting the outline for a procedural theory. "psychological". the causes of an action can be the "other" (or a group of "others". "immanent". Husserl and Searle (1981).

.14 I conclude the discussion dealing with the human duality. face-to-face interaction provides an admirable context for executing a double stance – the individual's task actions unrebelliously adhere to the official definition of the situation. which is related also to the issue of freedom and determinism by quoting Goffman: "." (1969:85) . . while gestural activity that can be sustained simultaneously and yet non-interferingly shows that he was not agreed to having all of himself defined by what officially is in progress.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful