The flurry of debates on mental causation in recent years has largely been occasioned by Donald Davidson's original and controversial views on the role of mind in the causation and explanation of behaviour. In his classic 1963 paper, “Actions, Reasons, and Causes,” Davidson argued, against the prevailing opinion of the Ryleans and later-Wittgensteineans, that in order to be genuinely explanatory of human behaviour, reasons must be causes; and in his equally influential and far more controversial 1970 paper, “Mental Events,” he undertook to show how reasons can be causes—how it is possible for our beliefs, desire, intentions, and the like, in terms of which we “rationalize” our behaviour, to be at the same time causes of our behaviour. While the basic thesis of the 1963 paper was widely accepted, setting a trend for much of the work on action theory for the following three decades, the account of the causal efficacy of mind in “Mental Events” generated a great deal of controversy. The debates continue, involving scores of participants but seldom Davidson himself. What makes the present collection of previously unpublished papers particularly interesting is that it contains Davidson's own reply to some of his most notable critics, together with their rejoinders; so we now have a contemporary perspective on the mental causation debate that Davidson initiated, unwittingly, a quarter of a century ago.
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