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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Undergraduate Course: Philosophy of Action (PHIL10209)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines in depth the field of philosophy of action. Students will learn about prominent approaches to action theory - such as those championed by Elizabeth Anscombe and Donald Davidson. They will consider a variety of central issues in the philosophy of action. These issues may include moral responsibility, irrational action and the possibility of weakness of will, unfree action, unconsciously motivated action, and the kind of action that we identify with and that, in a salient sense, makes us who we are.
Course description Wittgenstein famously asked: 'What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?' (PI, §621) -In virtue of what is the action of raising my arm an action rather than a mere event, or something that merely happens? And what role do I, as agent, have in making it happen? These questions lie at the centre of the Philosophy of Action, a branch of philosophy that brings together issues in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.

The course will consider questions such as: If something is an intentional action, in virtue of the agent's comprehensions of the reasons for performing it, then how is irrational action possible? How are we to make sense of unconsciously motivated action and unfree action? How are we to make sense of alienation from action, and what does it take to identify oneself with one's actions in such a way that one thereby attains a sense of self? Finally, how do these two prominent approaches to action theory make sense of moral responsibility?

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Mind, Matter and Language (PHIL08014) AND Knowledge and Reality (PHIL08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students studying on MA Cognitive Science (Humanities) are permitted to take this course without having met the pre-requisites of Mind, Matter and Language and Knowledge and Reality. However, it is advisable that students discuss the suitability of the course with their PT and the course organiser before enrolling.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Articulate in their own terms the main conception of intentional action
  2. Develop a rational reconstruction of an important philosophical view, such as Anscombe¿s
  3. Critically and closely read difficult philosophical texts
  4. Understand the connection between agency and rationality
  5. Recognise the mistake involved in thinking of what we do as an outcome
Reading List
Elizabeth Anscombe, Intention.
Donald Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events.
Harry Frankfurt, "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person."
Pamela Hieronymi, "Reasons for Action."
Jennifer Hornsby, "Agency and Alienation."
Richard Holton, "Intention and Weakness of Will."
Berislav Marusic, Evidence and Agency.
Sebastian Rödl, "The Form of the Will."
Tamar Schapiro, Feeling Like It: A Theory of Inclination and Will.
John Schwenkler, "Understanding Practical Knowledge."
Kieran Setiya, "Sympathy for the Devil."
David Velleman, "The Guise of the Good."
David Velleman, "What Happens when Someone Acts?"
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Mindsets: Enquiry and lifelong learning; Outlook and engagement
Skill groups: Personal and intellectual autonomy; Personal effectiveness
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Berislav Marusic
Course secretaryMr Peter Cruickshank
Tel: (131 6)50 3961
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