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Title: Action and volition
Author: Weir, George R. S.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3565 4838
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1983
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Despite views to the contrary, 'action' is not a concept alien to ordinary ways of thinking, hence the significance of the philosophical problem of action, which demands that we ground this concept in some real difference between actions and other occurrences. I argue that of the two likely candidates, the causal and the volitional theories of action, the causal approach will not suffice because it is unable to cope with instances of wayward causality. My concern is principally with the volition theory of which the views of James and Prichard are discussed at length. James's account of the will is deemed unacceptable by virtue of its emphasis upon introspection. While Prichard appears to offer good reasons for believing that willing is fundamental to action, his identification of action with volition is rejected. Subsequently, detailed consideration is given to the relation of volition to action, and I suggest that volition be regarded neither as action nor cause of action. Instead, actions are best understood as causings, which embrace both volitions and their effects. This analysis of action is extended through the concept of 'basic action', and it emerges that there is a clear sense in which willing is not intentional. The suggestion that 'trying' is crucial to the concept of action is discussed and it is argued that willing may constitute trying in every instance of action, although it never counts as action in its own right. Volition is faced with with criticisms from Ryle. I defend the view that volitions may be regarded as essentially voluntary, although we may do better to construe it as involuntary. The problem of descriptive deficiency and the logical connection argument are the next challenges met by my account of volition. Several remaining objections to my account of action are dismissed before I demonstrate that, unlike the causal approach, the volition theory meets the rigours of wayward causality. In conclusion, we have an account of action which harks back to the suggestion of J.S. Mill, that action is 'not one thing but a combination of two'. By thus supposing that volition plays an essential role in action, we can adequately resolve the problem of action with which we began.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy