Actions, Reasons, and Presuppositions
The dominant view of action explanation is that it is a species of causal explanation. One reason for the enduring appeal of “causalism” is the powerful but simple challenge that Davidson presents to would-be non-causalists in “Actions, Reasons, and Causes”. If Davidson is right, the desires, beliefs, or other psychological states that explain actions must have causal features if they are to play their explanatory role. I argue that these causal features are relevant only to whether the presuppositions of action explanation hold. We can thus accommodate the appeal of Davidson’s challenge without conceding that action explanation is a species of causal explanation. Avoiding this concession is important, not only for understanding how action explanation works, but for avoiding the problem of explanatory exclusion.