Acting without reasons

Josep L. Prades (University of Girona)

Acting without reasons

En: Disputatio, Vol. II, No. 23, November 2007


“In this paper, I want to challenge some common assumptions in contemporary theories of practical rationality and intentional action. If I am right, the fact that our intentions can be rationalised is widely misunderstood. Normally, it is taken for granted that the role of rationalisations is to show the reasons that the agent had to make up her mind. I will argue against this. I do not object to the idea that acting intentionally is, at least normally, acting for reasons, but I will propose a teleological reading of the expression ‘for reasons.’ On this reading, it is quite possible to act for reasons without having reasons to act. In a similar way, paradigmatic cases of cogent practical reasoning do not require the transference of justification from the premises to the practical conclusion.”

The Philosophy of Donald Davidson

Edited by Lewis Edwin Hahn

The Philosophy of Donald Davidson

The Library of Living Philosophers, Vol. XXVII, 1999.

“Donald Davidson (born 6 March 1917), now emeritus from the University of California at Berkeley, is still quite active as a philosopher and a world traveler. An original thinker, one of the best and broadest of the analysts, and a helpful interpreter of the history of philosophy, he has a happy facility for interacting fruitfully with philosophers of many persuasions as well as with representatives of numerous other disciplines. Fifteen or more conferences on his thought have been held in various parts of the world, and more than twenty books have been published on his work. Davidson has been the recipient of more than two score visiting professorships, lectureships, prizes, research grants, and other honors in many countries, and some of his papers have been reprinted at least two dozen times in nine or more languages. For more information on his publications please see his bibliography in this volume.

His intellectual autobiography  provides a helpful summary of his visiting professorship and prestigious lectureship as well as the context of some of major conferences on his work, and some interesting background on many of his major theses. His comments in the autobiography concerning his relations to Spinoza, for example, shed fresh light on both philosophies. The reader may also find interesting his comment that had he known more about the history of philosophy he would avoided some of the tempting errors to which he succumbed.

I am grateful to Professor Davidson and his diverse set of able critics for making this volume possible….”

Lewis Edwin Hahn (Editor)

Departament of Philosophy/ Southern Illionois University at Carbondale/ September 1998.

Donald Davidson


Edited by Kirk Ludwing

Donald Davidson

En: Contemporany Philosophy in Focus. Cambridge University Press, 2003.


“Donald Davidson has been one of the most influential figures in modern analytic philosophy. He has made seminal contributions to a wide range of subjects: philosophy of language, philosophy of action, philosophy of mind, epistemology, metaphysics, and the theory of rationality. His principal work, embodied in a series of landmark essays stretching over nearly forty years, exhibits a unity rare among philosophers contributing to so many different topics. These essays – elegant, compact, sometimes cryptic, and difficult – together form a mosaic that presents a systematic account of the nature of human thought, action and speech, and their relation to the natural world, which is one of the most subtle and impressive systems to emerge in analytic philosophy in the last fifty years.

Written by a distinguished roster of philosophers, this volume includes chapters on truth and meaning; the philosophy of action; radical interpretation; philosophical psychology; the semantics and metaphysics of events; knowledge of the external world, other minds, and our own minds; and the implications of Davidson’s work for literary theory.

This is the only comprehensive introduction to the full range of Davidson’s work, and, as such, it will be of particular value to advanced undergraduates, graduates, and professionals in philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and literary theory.”

Kirk Ludwig

List of Contributors

1. Truth and Meaning — Ernest lepore and Kirk Ludwing

2. Philosophy of Action — Alfred R. Mele

3. Radical Interpretation —Piers Rawling

4. Philosophy of Mind and Psychology — Jaegwon Kim

5. Semantics and Metaphysics of Events — Paul Pietroski

6. Knowledge of Self, Others, and World — Ernest Sosa

7. Language and Literature — Samuel C. Wheeler III





Davidson, Fodor, Dennett y conexionismo: razones y causas en los marcos actuales de explicación causal de la acción racional

Jesús Ezquerro

Davidson, Fodor, Dennett y conexionismo/s: razones y causas en los marcos actuales de explicación causal de la acción racional

En: Daimón, No. 3, 1991, pp. 81-111.


“The aim of this paper is to show that some current theretical frames for the causal explanation of rational action, that is, the accounts of Davidson and Fodor, cannot be successful in their attempts to answer satisfactorily the following question: “Why does our strategy in explaining rational action by ascribing beliefs and desires works?”. The reason of the failure, in my opinion, could be that one: the proposals mentioned above try to account simultaneously for the causal and rational features of human action. Taking a different path, I propose, with D. Dennett, that there is room in cognitive science for two different projects, each one accounting in its own way for the rational and causal features separately. Moreover, if we want to preserve a realist conception of representations, a three level (at least) cognitive architecture must be posited, being the two lower levels of connectionist sort, and classical the highest one, however modified in its ideal assumptions.”

Explaining Action by Emotion

Sabine A. Döring

Explaining Action by Emotion

En: The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 211, 2003.


“I discuss two ways in which emotions explain actions: in the first, the explanation is expressive; in the second, the action is not only explained but also rationalized by the emotion’s intentional content. The belief–desire model cannot satisfactorily account for either of these cases. My main purpose is to show that the emotions constitute an irreducible category in the explanation of action, to be understood by analogy with perception. Emotions are affective perceptions. Their affect gives them motivational force, and they can rationalize actions because, like perception, they have a representational intentional content. Because of this, an emotion can non-inferentially justify a belief which in its turn justifies or rationalizes an action; so emotions may constitute a source of moral knowledge.”




Action et connaissance

Valérie Aucouturier

Action et connaissance

En: Philonsorbonne, No. 1, 2007.

Críticas al enfoque causal de la acción propuesto por Harry Frankfurt

Jorge Gregorio Posada Ramírez

Críticas al enfoque causal de la acción propuesto por Harry Frankfurt

(Criticims to the Causal Approach of the Action Proposed by Harry Frankfurt)

En: Discusiones Filosóficas. No. 17, 2010, pp. 167-179.


“En este texto intento mostrar que la crítica de Frankfurt a lo que él denomina enfoque historicista causal de la acción es injustificada. Una teoría de la acción que distinga a las acciones de los sucesos a partir de su historia causal, no implica que la explicación de la acción se desplace a algo que ocurrió antes de la acción, su causa, o que descuide en la explicación de lo que es una acción, la acción misma. Para esto, muestro cómo la posición de Davidson y Searle, quienes son asumidos por Frankfurt como historicistas causales, si bien parten de la noción de causa como esencial para explicar lo que es una acción, no suponen que debe repararse en algo que sucede antes de la acción para explicarla, o que la causa de una acción sea un suceso que necesariamente la antecede.”


“My intention in this paper is to show that the Frankfurt’s critique of what he determines causal historicism approach of the action is unjustified. A theory of the action that distinguishes the actions of the events from their causal history, does not mean that the explanation of the action moves itself to something that happened before the action, or that the action by itself, has to be neglected in its explanation. To demonstrate this, I show how the positions of Davidson and Searle, who are assumed by Frankfurt as causal historicist, although they are based on the notion of cause as essential to explain what an action is, it does not imply that we have to focus on something that happens before an action to explain it, or that the cause of an action is an event that necessarily precedes it.”