Automatic Actions: Challenging Causalism
I argue that so-called automatic actions—routine performances that we successfully and effortlessly complete without thinking such as turning a door handle, downshifting to 4th gear, or lighting up a cigarette—pose a challenge to causalism, because they do not appear to be preceded by the psychological states which, according to the causal theory ... of action, are necessary for intentional action. I argue that causalism cannot prove that agents are simply unaware of the relevant psychological states when they act automatically, because these content-specific psychological states aren’t always necessary to make coherent rational sense of the agent’s behaviour. I then dispute other possible grounds for the attribution of these psychological states, such as agents’ own self-attributions. In the final section I introduce an alternative to causalism, building on Frankfurt’s concept of guidance.
Original publication in
Rationality, markets, and morals: RMM 2 (2011), 179-200