more from Roderick Chisholm

Single Idea 20062

[catalogued under 20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 1. Action Theory]

Full Idea

If someone wants to kill his uncle to inherit a fortune, and having this desire makes him so agitated that he loses control of his car and kills a pedestrian, who turns out to be his uncle, the conditions of the causal theory seem to be satisfied.

Gist of Idea

If a desire leads to a satisfactory result by an odd route, the causal theory looks wrong


Roderick Chisholm (Freedom and Action [1966]), quoted by Rowland Stout - Action 6 'Deviant'

Book Reference

Stout,Rowland: 'Action' [Acumen 2005], p.83

A Reaction

This line of argument has undermined all sorts of causal theories that were fashionable in the 1960s and 70s. Explanation should lead to understanding, but a deviant causal chain doesn't explain the outcome. The causal theory can be tightened.

Related Idea

Idea 20039 The causal theory says that actions are intentional when intention (or belief-desire) causes the act [Stout,R]