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THE CAUSAL STRUCTURE OF ACTION
This work is presented as a thesis towards the M.A. degree
Asher Idan 1982
This work has been carried out under the supervision of Prof. Marcelo Dascal
Sometimes "q" is a cause (example 1) and sometimes it is a reason (example 4). Examples are: 1. I left the class (human action) because I thought that the teacher doesn't understand the subject (a proposition). however. are problematic since there we find a mixture of an event and an action (example 2). metaphysics. the term "because" is ambiguous. "creation" and "action" are problematic. Thus. 2. psychology. we find two "kinds" of because: "causal because" and "logico-semantical because". "beginning". It is common to say that the connection between events is causal (example 1) and the connection between propositions is logico-semantical (example 4). In the formula. sociology. At this point. They have many meanings and uses which point to different theories and presuppositions. psychology and history)". These terms were used in domains such as the philosophy of action. or the reasons which bring about the beginning of an action? The terms "cause". 3. theology. "brings about". Raz. J. Examples 2 and 3.1 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. I will only present a few examples and show some of the presuppositions behind them. or of a proposition and an action (example 3). "reason". 4. the philosophy of science. What are the kinds . as well as in the examples. The dam has been destroyed (natural event) 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). etc. Causes and reasons: One of the formulas in everyday language to which these terms are connected is "P because q". I bought an umbrella (human action) because of the heavy rain (natural event). ethics. Practical Reasoning The central question which will be discussed in my work is: What are the causes which cause.
and other philosophers of praxis). Thus. as an actor. have an experience of my reason while I. reasons and creation. In 3 the "because" relation is not purely logicosemantical as in 4. 3) Reasons are usually connected with normativity while causes are connected with descriptivity (Bar-On. 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. because in the same situation. B. In 3 my opinion had some causal function. 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?).2 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. it moved my body out of the class. We must at least add my decision to buy an umbrella. in a sense. "x began because y" can mean either that x was created by y. Bergson. Creation and beginning: The creation of x can be regarded in some theories as a simple sum of the parts of x. Either by reducing causes to reasons (Schopenhauer and. can only conclude that "9 is the cause of P" (Taylor. Only an action can bridge the gap between the physical-causal and the intentional (or mental)logical. Actions are connected with events and with propositions. Spinoza. 1974). I could decide to buy a coat. 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). There are no differences between causes and reasons. C. There are differences between causes and reasons of the following kind: 1) I. . 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. the "because" in examples 2 and 3 is of a dual kind: it is a causallogical relation (Danto 1976. Thus. Theories about the beginning have connections with theories about causes. as an observer. and mainly Marx. 2) Reasons are parts of a rule-governed human activity while causes are not (Wittgenstein). 1975). or that at a certain point in time or space y has triggered an already existing x to appear. too. while in other theories as more than the simple sum of the parts of x.
I will do the same about the presuppositions which stand behind the different meanings and uses of the term "action". I will characterize it positively throughout my presentation of the different solutions to the central problem. of course. a human movement which was physically caused by a natural event (man that falls because of a strong wind). In the course of my work. 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. Ryle argues that the theories which claim that volitions are the causes of actions. are the most comprehensive and adequate solutions.) can be the cause which we are looking for in our central 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). . a human situation (like fear of hunger). in my opinion. or by another human being. Since an action is the central concept in my work. compare and criticize the different solutions to the central problem. experience. C. * * * I will discuss. to bring together the main points made in the wide and renewed philosophical discussion. are vague and inconsistent. especially after World War II. B. conducted mainly in the current century. Here I characterize an action only negatively. actions will be discovered as complex entities of different kinds. a natural event. * * * Chapter 1 includes both a primary clarification of the central question and a summary of the main answer to it. is what is this "x"!!). intention. a spontaneous movement of a limb (heart's beats). D. and this x (reason. B. I conclude my analysis with an outline for a unified theory of the causal structure and dynamics of action.3 Action: Action is usually distinguished from the following things: A. The objectives are two-fold: A. to point to what. etc. Each kind has a characteristic combination of components and "mechanisms". or by a nervous spasm.
or in an agent. Nevertheless. we can go on and ask about these three answers. There is no exclusive cause which begins an action from a "resting situation" (Leibniz directed this argument against Locke. that causes my limb (or part of it) to wave. Epistemologically. I argue that Ryle's criticism and the answers considered in the preceding chapter. By pointing to reasons as the causes of actions. Ontologically. 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 particles so widely. In Chapter 3. Basic actions can be performed or can begin but can not be caused by something. Davidson can answer mot of Ryle's questions. Danto presents the concept of basic action in order to avoid the need for causes which begin every action. which was the beginning of nuclear physics. and I also apply it against Danto). were concerned mainly with the "Cartesian paradigm" which in philosophy. and how the process of scattering happens? The answers to these questions are no less than Bohr's theory. It is a result of a gradual process of growth in the degree of movement and of . 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). 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). But what is in a reason. 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). To Wittgenstein he can say that "what remains" is the reason. Praxiologically. Ryle's criticism is a partial one since it is directed to volitional theories within the "Cartesian paradigm". Reasons are less deterministic causes than physical causes. or in a basic action. or from a balanced situation (against Bayle). the agent is the cause of his/her actions. the agent has a special "power" of "immanent causality". Leibniz thinks that an action neither begins nor is created absolutely. Chisholm and Taylor answer to Ryle's and Wittgenstein's questions by their theories of immanent causality of the agent. modified But by there is a competitive "Leibnizian paradigm" was "pre-analytical" philosophers like Bergson. According to their theories. Davidson answered that reasons can cause actions. although they are not causes of a physical kind. I present Leibniz's solution to the central problem. Thus.4 Danto and Davidson were two of the first philosophers who tried to cope with the challenge of Ryle and Wittgenstein. Husserl and Schutz.
But they are only partial causes. a dancer in his performances. 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. There is a special kind of connection between the "mental" and the "physical". I shall show how Apostel explicates this "emergentic entity". typical of an introspective philosopher or of a scientist in a laboratory (the raising of an arm. This connection is gradual and two-directional. we have here a kind of "feedback process".). According to Husserl. Mill). In this context. our intentions. Thus. The "mental" is intensified by the growth of consciousness to the "small perceptions". The "mental" (in Descartes' paradigm) is not always the "mover" of the "physical" and vice-versa. are components in that process. In Chapter 4. Philosophers belonging to the "cortesian paradigm" do not investigate action in its "natural" and everyday context (a person who goes to work. Of course. beliefs. in chapter 7. etc. This structure leads from plurality in the lower levels to a relative unity in the higher levels. An action begins after a gradual process of concentration of the agent from peripheral and imfocussed intentionality to a central and focussed one. volitions. Later. reasons. which is directed to the object of intentionality. we can find in the higher level a unity which is the object of internationality towards which the action is directed and intended. etc. 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.5 consciousness. 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. Intentions or volitions alone can not cause limbs to move.. . and the "physical" is intensified by the growth of the degree of movement. an isolated movement of a finger) or in hospital. action is a result of an emergetic enlargement of a whole which is composed of many components. I present solutions of preanalytical philosophers. In a given situation. and emphasizes movement as a primary quality of every organism. A little growth of the one contributes to a little growth of the other and vice-versa. Husserl made an important contribution to the philosophy of action by emphasizing the importance of Brentano's notion of intentionality. Bergson modifies Lebniz's theory of the small and unconscious perceptions. Action is not a result of intentions or volitions which precede an action (against J.S. but in an "artificial context".
I show that this distinction is parallel to Searle's distinction between Intention-before-action and Intention-in-action. In chapter 6. Only combinations of all three components: intentional experience. body movement. This property enables the agent to begin. 2. Sellars characterizes action by two factors: A. Goldman begins by criticizing Sellars' "correspondence theory" which connects volitions to actions. 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 preanalytical philosophy of action (especially W.6 Schulz adds social factors to the "Leibnizian paradigm". 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.) for every action. The existence of only one or two components .) 3. intention-before-action which is very important for understanding the causal structure of action. I return to the discussion of volitional theories belonging to the analytical tradition. He makes a synthesis of ideas from phenomenology with ideas from analytical philosophy and clarifies the conceptual background for our central problem. Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 are the central chapters of this thesis. James called it an ImageResponse). An agent does not fit a propositional volition (like: "I will do x now". especially the concept of Intentionality. (In chapter 6. by introducing two central notions: a system of typicality and a system of relevance. I discuss Searle's analysis and use of certain concepts from the phenomenological tradition. a volition x to do y will not necessarily cause y. An action can be caused by a primary volition or by a secondary volition. and an external event (like the falling of a stone). Searle distinguishes between two kinds of intentions: A. These are sophisticated volitional theories since they try to cope with the challenges of Ryle and Wittgenstein. violitions are a kind of talk without sound. In chapter 3. James). He emphasized the importance of the biography of a person and of his society to the causal structure of his actions. it can cause another action z. or for a "whole" set of actions. Primary volition is a kind of memory (which can be voluntary) of an accidental action which was performed earlier (W. can be regarded as an action. But. B. Intention-in-action which is less explicit than the first kind of action by ordering himself ("self-order"). Goldman argues that: 1. B. This kind of intention has the property of self-reference of the representational content of the intention-before-action. it is something which is caused by a volition.
by means of which he begins to explicate the causal structure of action. volitions. Only a coherent structure can cause an action according to the following scheme: שרטוט .. a coherent structure of field or gestalt can be created (coherent structure is a structure which. e. has no "conflicts". are only partial causes of an action. but also syntax and intonation. etc. 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. Dascal and Gruengard think that not only semantics (closeness between content and description) can be used as a criterion for demarcation between action and nonaction. a hammer and a wall). They have also extended the domain of the reference of intentionality from references to international objects to references to intentional subjects. which is caused by this intention) makes the process to be a non-action. I begin Chapter 7 by presenting Apostel's simple model of action. when. Only when certain combinations of partial causes which serve as instruments are directed to certain materials. Only combinations of many partial causes can cause an action in a natural context (Bergson). A lack of closeness between the content of the intention and the description of the (movement + event. Intentions. in a given situation we don't have a feeling of hunger and a reason or a will to be thin). reasons.g.7 does not generate an action. according to Searle.g. at a certain point. The relations between intentions and limbs and between limbs and objects are like relations between instrument and material (e.
beliefs. IIA can also function as a whole in comparison to its sub-intentions (as Searle showed). objects. etc. "partial causes". will clarify. and simultaneously as a part in comparison to the agent. The mereological analysis enables Apostel to investigate action not in a dichotomic way but in a hierarchical one. limbs. volitions. etc. The question of the upper and the lower limits has been discussed in chapters 6. writes: . The person can function as a part in comparison to the family. the intentional field can organize and combine intentions. i. We can continue hierarchy up and down. in a characteristic structure in a certain situation. Some of the theories see only the "tree" (volutional theories) and others see only the "forest" (agent theories).8 In a similar way to a given electric field which can organize particles of metal in a characteristic structure in space. their structure.. roles. This hierarchial structure is connected to the complexity and heterogenity of the structure of action. and their causes: Here the parts are intentions. Ryle. 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). which future research. I think that these are very complex relations and connections.. Apostel's view is a mereological one which investigates the relations between wholes and their parts in two levels: I. etc. reasons.e. Among the constraints and causes of the combinations of the intentional field there are reasons. actions. the previous theories seem to be partial solutions to the central problem. for example. feelings. and the self. etc. The whole in level n functions as a part in relation to level n+1. Apostel does not define exactly how constraint x causes combination y. and the whole is the person. From the point of view of the analysis of Searle and Apostel. and a family as a part to society. using statistical and/or fuzzy methods. The levels of the objects of research which are the actions. and sub-intentions to synaptic transfers. volitions. 7 and 8.
and the world (without reference to the person). . a person can have.9 "the higher-grade dispositions of people with which this inquiry is largely concerned are. in an organized way. thinker. . In a given situation. etc. 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). user of tools. in general. 2. user of symbols. etc." (1949:44) These characteristics of the structure of action enable the person to be flexible and 'creative' in his actions. and the person. a volition and a representation. Semantics of action that investigates the relations between actions. . in level n–1: a hand. This semantics can include semantics of language (or of symbols) which investigates the relations between representations (which can be parts of intentions) . receiver of social roles. pragmatics of action that investigates the relations between actions. By this comprehensive and synthetic theory. II. intentions. 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. 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. indefinitely heterogeneous. etc. for example. This theory will regard a person as a whole with the following parts: agent. Apostel leads to what I call a universal progmatics or a philosophical theory of the person which includes: 1. intentions. A certain reason can function in level n as an organizer. not single track dispositions but. . an intention. and through the person to the world..
As a subject he can take part in causal processes of some other kind ("logico-semantical" in terms of Danto (1976). intentions. or myself. 7. reasons. "rule governed". Brentano. "intentional". 3. Thus. 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. Thus. Davidson (1974). 1981). intentional objects and subjects. level n can function as a tool which directs the material in level n-1. "immanent". Theory of causality which will investigate the relations between events. a person is a dual being in two aspects: A. I try to explicate their structure and their components. B. In the structure of a procedure. He is an object and a subject. Mereology which investigates the formal relations between parts and wholes. (without reference to the world or to the person). 4. Wittgenstein (1953). My own intentions can also be used as instruments which can be directed to three causes (the physical.g. I outline a unified-procedural theory of action which will integrate some of the ideas from the previous chapters. actions and persons. As an object he can take part in causal processes of a physical kind. or the physical world. I have summarized the findings of my work about physical actions. intentions. linguistic (or semiatic) actions. 6. e. 5. Theory of personality which will integrate existing theories from psychology and phenomenology. 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). and "epistemic actions". directional. In the case of self-intentionality (which includes self-reference) the intentionality is directed to my self or to my body (subject or object). the causes of an action can be the "other" (or a group of "others". Theory of time and change (Nowakowska's theory. linguistic and intentional elements in a hierarchical. etc. "normative" Bar-On (1975). and other extralinguistic entities. unconscious processes. wills. reasons. Syntax of action which investigates the relations between actions. 8. . In a given procedure we can find in an organized way: intentions. not only action is dual but intentionality too.. The structure is dynamical because what functions as a tool for purpose p1 can "change" and become material for purpose p2. Procedures are a kind of rituals which organize physical.10 and the world. Husserl and Searle (1981). the social and myself). society). He can move himself and can be moved by causes. Before presenting the outline for a procedural theory. Chisholm (1976) and Taylor (1974). which can be regarded as materials of actions. "psychological". Thus. Thus. In chapter 8. Logico which will be adequate for discussing actions. dynamical and modular way.
. which is related also to the issue of freedom and determinism by quoting Goffman: ". while gestural activity that can be sustained simultaneously and yet noninterferingly shows that he was not agreed to having all of himself defined by what officially is in progress.11 internal self-causality External physical or socialcausality 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 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." (1969:85) . .
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