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5.4b.1. Agent Causation (Agent Causation on PhilPapers)

Allen, Robert F. (online). Agent causation and ultimate responsibility.   (Google)
Abstract: Positions taken in the current debate over free will can be seen as responses to the following conditional: If every action is caused solely by another event and a cause necessitates its effect, then there is no action to which there is an alternative. The Libertarian, who believes that alternatives are a requirement of free will, responds by denying the right conjunct of C’s antecedent, maintaining that some actions are caused, either mediately or immediately, by events whose effects could be different, even if they were to recur under identical circumstances. We have here a denial of Laplacian Determinism (LD), according to which the condition of the world at any instant makes only one state possible at any other instant.<sup>1</sup> One prominent defender of this view, Robert Kane, holds that unless an agent’s neural mechanisms operated indeterministicly in forming her character she is not responsible for its manifestations.<sup>2</sup> This requirement is entailed by the principle of “ultimate responsibility” (UR) according to which an act is freely willed only if (a) its agent is personally responsible for its performance in the sense of having caused it to occur by voluntarily doing something that was avoidable and (b)
Balaguer, Mark (2002). A coherent, naturalistic, and plausible formulation of libertarian free will. Noûs 36 (3):379-406.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Bishop, John D. (1983). Agent-causation. Mind 92 (January):61-79.   (Cited by 10 | Google | More links)
Bishop, John D. (1986). Is agent-causality a conceptal primitive? Synthese 67 (May):225-47.   (Google)
Bishop, John D. (2003). Prospects for a naturalist libertarianism: O'Connor's persons and causes. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (1):228-243.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
BonJour, Laurence A. (1976). Deeterminism, libertarianism, and agent causation. Southern Journal of Philosophy 14:145-56.   (Google)
Chisholm, Roderick M. (1976). Person and Object: A Metaphysical Study. Open Court.   (Cited by 177 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Reissue from the classic Muirhead Library of Philosophy series (originally published between 1890s - 1970s).
Clarke, Randolph (1996). Agent causation and event causation in the production of free action. Philosophical Topics 24:19-48.   (Cited by 34 | Google)
Clarke, Randolph (2005). Agent causation and the problem of luck. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (3):408-421.   (Cited by 4 | Google | More links)
Clarke, Randolph (1993). Toward a credible agent-causal account of free will. Noûs 27 (2):191-203.   (Cited by 44 | Google | More links)
Ellis, Ralph D. (1983). Agent causation, chance, and determinism. Philosophical Inquiry 5:29-42.   (Google)
Feldman, Richard H. & Buckareff, Andrei A. (2003). Reasons explanations and pure agency. Philosophical Studies 112 (2):135-145.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Abstract: We focus on the recent non-causal theory of reasons explanationsof free action proffered by a proponent of the agency theory, Timothy O'Connor. We argue that the conditions O'Connor offersare neither necessary nor sufficient for a person to act for a reason. Finally, we note that the role O'Connor assigns toreasons in the etiology of actions results in further conceptual difficulties for agent-causalism
Fischer, John Martin (2001). Book review. Persons and causes: The metaphysics of free will Timothy O'Connor. Mind 110 (438).   (Google)
Griffith, Meghan E. (2005). Does free will remain a mystery? A response to Van Inwagen. Philosophical Studies 124 (3):261-269.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: In this paper, I argue against Peter van Inwagen’s claim (in “Free Will Remains a Mystery”), that agent-causal views of free will could do nothing to solve the problem of free will (specifically, the problem of chanciness). After explaining van Inwagen’s argument, I argue that he does not consider all possible manifestations of the agent-causal position. More importantly, I claim that, in any case, van Inwagen appears to have mischaracterized the problem in some crucial ways. Once we are clear on the true nature of the problem of chanciness, agent-causal views do much to eradicate it
Griffith, Meghan (2007). Freedom and trying: Understanding agent-causal exertions. Acta Analytica 22 (1).   (Google)
Abstract: In this paper, I argue that trying is the locus of freedom and moral responsibility. Thus, any plausible view of free and responsible action must accommodate and account for free tryings. I then consider a version of agent causation whereby the agent directly causes her tryings. On this view, the agent is afforded direct control over her efforts and there is no need to posit—as other agent-causal theorists do—an uncaused event. I discuss the potential advantages of this sort of view, and its challenges
Haji, Ishtiyaque (2004). Active control, agent-causation and free action. Philosophical Explorations 7 (2):131-148.   (Cited by 4 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Key elements of Randolph Clarke's libertarian account of freedom that requires both agent-causation and non-deterministic event-causation in the production of free action is assessed with an eye toward determining whether agent-causal accounts can accommodate the truth of judgments of moral obligation
Hurst, T. L. (ms). Causation and Free Will.   (Google)
Abstract: This paper looks at the basic philosophic positions on the problem of free will and suggests that there is a difference in usage of the term "determinism" between hard and soft determinists. The term "freewillism" is introduced, which is defined as the view that events can be caused by willed choices. Instead of "soft determinism", "hard determinism" and "libertarianism" the terms "soft freewillism", "(hard) determinism" and "hard freewillism" are used. Hence there is only one form of determinism, and the issue is resolved.

This change is allied to an expansion of the questions by which the philosophic positions are distinguished to allow a correlation between the questions on free will and questions on causality. This suggests a mapping of the main philosophic positions on free will to the types of causation:

- (Hard) determinism correlates to event-event causation, and is not compatible with free will.
- Indeterminism correlates to random causation, which is also incompatible with free will.
- Hard freewillism (libertarianism) allows all three types of causation (event-event, random and agent), and indeterminate (libertarian) free will.
Soft freewillism (soft determinism) allows event-event and agent causation, and determinate free will.

The evidence supporting the three types of causation is then considered.
Hurst, T. L. (ms). The Demise of Compatibilism?   (Google)
Abstract: This paper suggests that compatibilism is incoherent because determinism allows neither causal input to your choices and actions, nor a sound form of moral responsibility. Free will requires, at least, moral responsibility, if not causal input. Hence, it is not possible to be compatible with both determinism and free will, as they are not compatible with each other.

A form of free will is identified in which our choices are determinate at the time we make them, because they are determined by our natures. However, our natures can change over time, and the unique ability of sentient beings to reflect on choices, actions and events allows input to that process. Thus giving us input to future choices.

This form of free will is not compatible with determinism because our choices are not fixed for all time by events in the distant past, but instead become fixed over time as choices are made and events unfold. The term "soft freewillism" is used for the philosophic position that allows this form of determinate free will.
Lowe, E. J. (2001). Event causation and agent causation. Grazer Philosophische Studien 61:1-20.   (Google)
Markosian, Ned (1999). A compatibilist version of the theory of agent causation. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80 (3):257-277.   (Cited by 4 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Here is a question about (physical) mereological simples that I raised in a recent paper. The Simple Question: What are the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for an object’s being a simple? And here is the answer to this question that I defended...
O'Connor, Timothy (1995). Agent causation. In Timothy O'Connor (ed.), Agents, Causes, and Events: Essays on Indeterminism and Free Will. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: In what follows, I will contend that the commonsense view of ourselves as fundamental causal agents - for which some have used the term “unmoved movers" but which I think might more accurately be expressed as “not wholly moved movers” - is theoretically understandable, internally consistent, and consistent with what we have thus far come to know about the nature and workings of the natural world. In the section that follows, I try to show how the concept of ‘agent’ causation can be understood as a distinct species (from ‘event’ causation) of the primitive idea, which I’ll term “causal production”, underlying realist or non-Humean conceptions of event causation. In section III, I respond to a number of contemporary objections to the theory of agent causation. Sections IV-V are devoted to showing that the theory is compatible with ordinary reasons explanations of action, which then places me in a position to respond, in the final section, to the contention that we could never know, in principle, whether the agency theory actually describes a significant portion of human activity.
O'Connor, Timothy (2000). Causality, mind, and free will. Noûs.   (Cited by 13 | Google | More links)
Abstract: One familiar affirmative answer to this question holds that these facts suffice to entail that Descartes' picture of the human mind must be mistaken. On Descartes' view, our mind or soul (the only essential part of ourselves) has no spatial location. Yet it directly interacts with but one physical object, the brain of that body with which it is, 'as it were, intermingled,' so as to 'form one unit.' The radical disparity posited between a nonspatial mind, whose intentional and conscious properties are had by no physical object, and a spatial body, all of whose properties are had by no mind, has prompted some to conclude that, pace Descartes, causal interaction between the two is impossible. Jaegwon Kim has recently given a new twist to this old line of thought.(1) In the present essay, I will use Kim's argument as a springboard for motivating my own favored picture of the metaphysics of mind and body and then discussing how an often vilified account of freedom of the will may be realized within it
O'Connor, Timothy (2001). Dualist and agent-causal theories. In Robert H. Kane (ed.), Oxford Handbook on Free Will. Oup.   (Google)
Abstract: I Introduction This essay will canvass recent philosophical accounts of human agency that deploy a notion of 'self' (or 'agent') causation. Some of these accounts try to explicate this notion, whereas others only hint at its nature by way of contrast with the causality exhibited by impersonal physical systems. In these latter theories, the authors' main argumentative burden is that the apparent fundamental differences between personal and impersonal causal activity strongly suggest mind-body dualism. I begin by noting two distinct, yet not commonly distinguished, philosophical motivations for pursuing an agent-causal account of human agency. In the course of discussing the accounts that some philosophers have developed in response to these considerations, I reconsider both the linkage of agent causation with mind-body dualism and its sharp cleavage from impersonal (or 'event') causation
O’Connor, Timothy (2005). Freedom with a human face. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29 (1):207-227.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: As good a definition as any of a _philosophical_ conundrum is a problem all of whose possible solutions are unsatisfactory. The problem of understanding the springs of action for morally responsible agents is commonly recognized to be such a problem. The origin, nature, and explanation of freely-willed actions puzzle us today as they did the ancients Greeks, and for much the same reasons. However, one can carry this ‘perennial-puzzle’ sentiment too far. The unsatisfactory nature of philosophical theories is a more or less matter, and some of them have admitted of improvement over time. This, at any rate, is what we self-selecting metaphysicians tend to suppose, and I will pursue that high calling by suggesting a few improvements to a theory of metaphysical freedom, or freedom of the will
O'Connor, Timothy (2005). Freedom With a Human Face. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29:207-227.   (Google)
O'Connor, Timothy (1993). Indeterminism and free agency: Three recent views. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3):499-26.   (Cited by 9 | Google | More links)
Abstract: It is a commonplace of philosophy that the notion of free will is a hard nut to crack. A simple, compelling argument can be made to show that behavior for which an agent is morally responsible cannot be the outcome of prior determining causal factors.1 Yet the smug satisfaction with which we incompatibilists are prone to trot out this argument has a tendency to turn to embarrassment when we're asked to explain just how it is that morally responsible action might obtain under the assumption of indeterminism. Despair over the prospect of giving a satisfactory answer to this question has led some contemporary philosophers to a position rarely, if ever, held in the history of philosophy: free, responsible action is an incoherent concept.2
O'Connor, Timothy (2007). Is it all just a matter of luck? Philosophical Explorations 10 (2):157 – 161.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: A central argument of Alfred Mele's Free Will and Luck (2006) is that the problem of luck poses essentially the same problem for all the main indeterministic accounts of free will. Consequently, there is no advantage is certain theories (notably, agent-causal theories) in their capacity to respond to the problem of luck. I argue that Mele has not made a persuasive case for these claims
O'Connor, Timothy (2002). Libertarian views: Dualist and agent-causal theories. In Robert H. Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
O'Connor, Timothy (2000). Persons and Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 77 | Google | More links)
Abstract: This provocative book refurbishes the traditional account of freedom of will as reasons-guided "agent" causation, situating its account within a general metaphysics. O'Connor's discussion of the general concept of causation and of ontological reductionism v. emergence will specially interest metaphysicians and philosophers of mind
O'Connor, Timothy & Churchill, John (2006). Reasons Explanation And Agent Control: In Search Of An Integrated Account. Philosophical Topics 32:241-256.   (Google)
O'Connor, Timothy (1996). Why agent causation? Philosophical Topics 24:143-58.   (Google)
Abstract: I Introduction The question of this paper is, what would it be to act with freedom of the will? What kind of control is inchoately in view when we speak, pretheoretically, of being ‘self- determining’ beings, of ‘freely making choices in view of consciously considered reasons’ (pro and con) - of its being ‘up to us’ how we shall act? My question here is not whether we have (or have any reason to think we have) such freedom, or what is the most robust account of our freedom compatible with late twentieth-century science. Many contemporary philosophers are all too ready to settle for a deflationary account of freedom and declare victory, with some brief remarks reminding us that we were created a little lower than the angels. I am not so sanguine about the ability of such accounts to leave reasonably intact our judgments about human autonomy, dignity, and responsibility. But, as I’ve said, that’s not my concern here. Instead, I want to revisit the question of what exactly ‘self-determination’, on our ordinary conception, comes to
Pereboom, Derk (forthcoming). Is our concept of agent-causation coherent? Philosophical Topics.   (Google)
Pereboom, Derk (2007). On Alfred Mele's free will and luck. Philosophical Explorations 10 (2):163 – 172.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: I argue that agent-causal libertarianism has a strong initial rejoinder to Mele's luck argument against it, but that his claim that it has yet to be explained how agent-causation yields responsibility-conferring control has significant force. I suggest an avenue of response. Subsequently, I raise objections to Mele's criticisms of my four-case manipulation argument against compatibilism
Rowe, William L. (2006). Free will, moral responsibility, and the problem of OOMPH. Journal of Ethics 10 (3):295-313.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Thomas Reid developed an important theory of freedom and moral responsibility resting on the concept of agent-causation, by which he meant the power of a rational agent to cause or not cause a volition resulting in an action. He held that this power is limited in that occasions occur when one's emotions or other forces may preclude its exercise. John Martin Fischer has raised an objection – the not enough ‘Oomph’ objection – against any incompatibilist account of freedom and moral responsibility. In this essay I argue that Fischer's not enough ‘Oomph’ objection fails to provide any reasons for rejecting Reid's incompatibilist, agent-causation account of freedom and moral responsibility
Rowe, William L. (1991). Responsibility, agent-causation, and freedom: An eighteenth-century view. Ethics 101 (2):237-257.   (Google | More links)
Schlosser, Markus E. (2008). Agent-causation and agential control. Philosophical Explorations 11 (1):3 – 21.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: According to what I call the reductive standard-causal theory of agency, the exercise of an agent's power to act can be reduced to the causal efficacy of agent-involving mental states and events. According to a non-reductive agent-causal theory, an agent's power to act is irreducible and primitive. Agent-causal theories have been dismissed on the ground that they presuppose a very contentious notion of causation, namely substance-causation. In this paper I will assume, with the proponents of the agent-causal approach, that substance-causation is possible, as I will argue against that theory on the ground that it fails as a theory of agency. I will argue that the non-reductive agent-causal theory fails to account for agency, because it fails to account for agential control: it cannot explain why the stipulated irreducible relation between the agent and an action constitutes the agent's exercise of control over the action. This objection, I will argue, applies to the agent-causal theory in particular, and to the non-reductive approach in general
Silvers, Stuart (2003). Agent causation, functional explanation, and epiphenomenal engines: Can conscious mental events be causally efficacious? Journal of Mind and Behavior 24 (2):197-228.   (Google)
Stone, Jim (1998). Free will as a gift from God: A New Compatibilism. Philosophical Studies 92 (3):257-81.   (Cited by 4 | Google | More links)
Tucker, Chris (2007). Agent causation and the alleged impossibility of rational free action. Erkenntnis 67 (1).   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Galen Strawson has claimed that “the impossibility of free will and ultimate moral responsibility can be proved with complete certainty.” Strawson, I take it, thinks that this conclusion can be established by one argument which he has developed. In this argument, he claims that rational free actions would require an infinite regress of rational choices, which is, of course, impossible for human beings. In my paper, I argue that agent causation theorists need not be worried by Strawson’s argument. For agent causation theorists are able to deny a key principle which drives the regress. Oversimplifying things a bit, the principle states that if one is responsible for her rational actions, then she was antecedently responsible for the reasons on which she acted
von Wachter, Daniel (2003). Agent causation before and after the ontological turn. In Edmund Runggaldier, Christian Kanzian & Josef Quitterer (eds.), Persons: An Interdisciplinary Approach. öbvhpt.   (Google)
Abstract: Chisholm's theory of agent causation is criticised. An alternative theory of agent causation is proposed.
von Wachter, Daniel (2003). Free agents as cause. In K. Petrus (ed.), On Human Persons. Heusenstamm Nr Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag.   (Google | More links)
Widerker, David (2005). Agent-causation and control. Faith and Philosophy 22 (1):87-98.   (Cited by 2 | Google)
Xu, Xiangdong (ms). Does Agent-Causation Theory Explain Free Agency?   (Google)
Zuriff, G. E. (2004). Conscious will and agent causation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (5):678-679.   (Google)
Abstract: Wegner (2002) fails to (1) distinguish conscious will and voluntariness; (2) account for everyday willed acts; and (3) individuate thoughts and acts. Wegner incorrectly implies that (4) we experience acts as willed only when they are caused by unwilled thoughts; (5) thoughts are never true causes of actions; and (6) we experience ourselves as first performing mental acts which then cause our intentional actions