Two arguments supporting the thesis of the predictive nature of reasons for action
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The dominant view in contemporary philosophy of action is that, to explain an action we need to provide a reason for it. A reason is what rationalises an action. According to Donald Davidson, before we can describe a reason we must identify the need that accompanies the performance of a given action, as well as the specific attitude of the agent to the action. The author of “Action, Reason and Cause” believes that the proattitude/ belief pair helps determine the reason for action, which is at the same time the action’s cause. Davidson’s view has a lot of supporters today and is strictly related to the so-called post-Humean theories of action. The objective of the present analysis is to demonstrate that the primary reason for action is not provided by the pro-attitude/belief pair, but by predictions due to which agents act in such and such a way. This expands on Elizabeth Anscombe’s intuition according to which each intention is predictive in nature. I will support the thesis about the predictive nature of reasons for action by means of two arguments. The first argument relies on the analysis of the Knobe effect concerning the asymmetry between attributing intentionality and attributing responsibility for actions; the other draws upon the theory of predictive processing. The remainder of this paper has the following structure: in §1, I will discuss Donald Davidson’s theory. §2 will focus on Elizabeth Anscombe’s conception. In §3, I will examine an argument drawn from the analysis of the Knobe effect, according to which an agent will intentionally perform a given action when he can predict the effects of performing it. §4 will introduce the problem of providing reasons for action in the context of folkpsychological explanations. §5 will examine the theory of predictive processing. §6 will demonstrate that predictions serve a specific, normative role in the decision-making processes, whereas §7 will advance the argument from predictive processing whereby to explain an action is to identify specific predictive reasoning which caused the action to be performed . In the Conclusions, I will show the consequences of my main thesis for the problem of the nature of actions and explanations, as well as the rationale for using folk-psychological categories.
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