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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: February 2013

7 - Donald Davidson: Essays on Actions and Events

Summary

Introduction

Essays on Actions and Events (Davidson 2001a, henceforth EAE) brings together seminal papers by Donald Davidson, one of the most influential philosophers in the analytic tradition in the latter half of the twentieth century, in the areas of the philosophy of action, the metaphysics of events and the philosophy of psychology. Davidson's central contributions to philosophy are presented in EAE and its companion volume Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (Davidson 2001b), which deals with issues in the theory of meaning and philosophy of language. The fifteen essays collected in EAE are divided into three groups: “Intention and Action”, “Event and Cause” and “Philosophy of Psychology”. The first deals with the nature of agency, action and action explanation. The central theme is that actions are events – bodily movements – caused and explained by reasons, construed as beliefs and desires, which make sense of the action from the point of view of the agent. The second deals with the metaphysics of events, which Davidson argues are dated particulars and part of the metaphysics of ordinary language. The third deals with issues in the philosophy of mind, principally the relation of the mental to the physical, and features Davidson's celebrated thesis of anomalous monism, according to which each mental event is identical to some physical event, although there are no strict laws connecting the mental with the physical. This essay surveys the central contributions of EAE, giving most attention to the work in the philosophy of action, which is connected with and prefigures the work in the latter two parts of EAE.