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Personal Agency The Metaphysics of Mind and Action

Personal Agency consists of two parts. In Part II, a radically libertarian theory of action is defended which combines aspects of agent causalism and volitionism. This theory accords to volitions the status of basic mental actions, maintaining that these are spontaneous exercises of the will-a ‘two-way’ power which rational agents can freely exercise in the light of reason. Lowe contends that substances, not events, are the causal source of all change in the world–with rational, free agents like ourselves having a special place in the causal order as unmoved movers, or initiators of new causal chains. And he defends a thoroughgoing externalism regarding reasons for action, holding these to be mind-independent worldly entities rather than the beliefs and desires of agents. Part I prepares the ground for this theory by undermining the threat presented to it by physicalism. It does this by challenging the causal closure argument for physicalism in all of its forms and by showing that a dualistic philosophy of mind-one which holds that human mental states and their subjects cannot be identified with bodily states and human bodies respectively-is both metaphysically coherent and entirely consistent with known empirical facts.

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures xvii
    • Introduction 1
    • 1 Some questions and answers 2
    • 2 Event causation and agent causation 3
    • 3 Free action and causation 6
    • 4 Reasons and causes 8
    • 5 An interim summing up 11
    • 6 The challenge of-and to-physicalism 12
    • 7 A brief look ahead 14
  • Part I Mental Causation, Causal Closure, and Emergent Dualism 17
  • 1 Self, Agency, and Mental Causation 19
    • 1.1 An apparently inconsistent triad 19
    • 1.2 The self is not its body 20
    • 1.3 Mental states are not physical states 22
    • 1.4 Selfhood requires agency 23
    • 1.5 Are the three claims inconsistent? 25
    • 1.6 Naturalistic dualism is possible 26
    • 1.7 On coincidental events 27
    • 1.8 A comparison between two possible worlds 29
    • 1.9 The significance of these findings 33
    • 1.10 Intentionality and mental causation 34
    • 1.11 An illustrative example 37
    • 1.12 An objection and a reply 39
  • 2 Causal Closure Principles and Emergentism 41
    • 2.1 Causal closure arguments for physicalism 41
    • 2.2 The surprising variety of causal closure principles 43
    • 2.3 Some causal closure principles that we may justifiably ignore 45
    • 2.4 A causal closure principle that is manifestly too weak 46
    • 2.5 A stronger causal closure principle that avoids the transitivity problem 48
    • 2.6 Weak causal closure and non-coincidence through mental causation 51
    • 2.7 The consistency of strong causal closure with dualistic interactionism 53
    • 2.8 What can we reasonably demand of a model of mental causation? 56
  • 3 Physical Causal Closure and the Invisibility of Mental Causation 58
    • 3.1 The early modern roots of the debate over interactive dualism 58
    • 3.2 The contemporary debate and the appeal to causal closure 62
    • 3.3 Is the causal closure principle (CCP)true? 65
    • 3.4 Is the non-overdetermination principle (NOP) true? 68
    • 3.5 The invisibility of mental causation 74
    • 3.6 Objections, replies, and some philosophical lessons to be learnt 75
  • 4 Could Volitions Be Epiphenomenal? 79
    • 4.1 Concerning epiphenomenalism 79
    • 4.2 Volitions and volitionism 81
    • 4.3 Automatisms and illusions of control 82
    • 4.4 Libet on the unconscious cerebral initiation of voluntary actions 84
    • 4.5 Can the causal efficacy of the will coherently be doubted? 85
    • 4.6 How is causal knowledge of the physical world possible? 87
    • 4.7 The incoherence of full-blown epiphenomenalism 89
  • 5 The Self as an Emergent Substance 92
    • 5.1 Non-Cartesian substance dualism defined 93
    • 5.2 The unity argument for NCSD 95
    • 5.3 The causal closure argument against interactive dualism 99
    • 5.4 Two different perspectives on the causal explanation of voluntary action 101
    • 5.5 A counterfactual-based argument against psychoneural identity theories 103
    • 5.6 Extending the argument to ‘realization’ accounts 107
    • 5.7 Intentional causation versus physical causation 110
    • 5.8 Context-dependency to the rescue? 112
    • 5.9 Reasons, causes, and freedom of action 116
  • Part II Persons, Rational Action, and Free Will 119
  • 6 Event Causation and Agent Causation 121
    • 6.1 Agents and agent causation 122
    • 6.2 A putative analysis of agent causation 123
    • 6.3 Causative action verbs and basic actions 124
    • 6.4 The case for irreducible agent causation 126
    • 6.5 The problem of ‘free will’ 128
    • 6.6 Mental causation, rational choice, and freedom of action 130
    • 6.7 Basic actions and backward causation 132
    • 6.8 The conceptual priority of agent causation 133
    • 6.9 An analysis of event causation 135
    • 6.10 Implications for the notion of causality 139
  • 7 Personal Agency 141
    • 7.1 Event causation and substance causation 141
    • 7.2 The primacy of substance causation 143
    • 7.3 The reduction of event causation to substance causation 145
    • 7.4 Agent causation and basic actions 146
    • 7.5 Personal agency and volitionism 147
    • 7.6 Causal powers and the nature of the will 149
    • 7.7 Classical agent causalism versus volitionism 151
    • 7.8 In defence of volitionism 153
    • 7.9 The will and its freedom 154
    • Appendix 157
  • 8 Substance Causation, Persons, and Free Will 159
    • 8.1 The problem of the disappearing agent 159
    • 8.2 More on the primacy of substance causation 161
    • 8.3 Human persons as psychological substances 165
    • 8.4 Volition as the executive element in intentional action 171
    • 8.5 The will as a spontaneous power 176
  • 9 Rational Selves and Freedom of Action 179
    • 9.1 Acting for a reason 180
    • 9.2 Objections and replies 183
    • 9.3 Choice, causation, and free agency 187
    • 9.4 Choice and chance 190
    • 9.5 Choice, agency, and control 195
    • 9.6 The pragmatic inconsistency of determinism 197
  • 10 Needs, Facts, Goodness, and Truth 199
    • 10.1 A summary of the story so far 200
    • 10.2 What kind of thing is a reason for action? 202
    • 10.3 Reasons for action versus reasons for belief 205
    • 10.4 Objective needs as reasons for action 208
    • 10.5 The logic of action versus the logic of belief 209
    • 10.6 Taking needs seriously 211
    • Bibliography 213
    • Index 219