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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 16, 1991

John M. Connolly
Pages 85-106
DOI: 10.5840/jpr_1991_25

Whither Action theory
Artificial Intelligence or Aristotle?

The problem of ‘wayward causal chains’ threatens any causal analysis of the concept of intentional human action. For such chains show that the mere causation of an action by the right sort of belief and/or desire does not make the action intentional, i.e. one done in order to attain the object of desire. Now if the ‘because’ in ‘wayward’ action-explanations is straightforwardly causal, that might be argued to indicate by contrast that the different ‘because’ of reasons-explanations (which both explain and justify) is non-causal. Myles Brand, in Intending and Acting (1984), resists this conclusion, but argues that waywardness shows that philosophers must ‘naturalize’ action theory by drawing on contemporary work in cognitive science and artificial intelligence. I argue that this is a misconceived response to the problem of waywardness: in Brand’s work action theory itself has gone astray, unsure which way to tum next.

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