Philosophy of Action
The purpose of this course is to introduce students into some fundamental problems concerning the knowledge, explanation, and metaphysics of human action. Accordingly, the topics of the course divide into three major groups. First, we shall discuss the issue concerning the explanation of actions: whether reasons explanations of intentional actions are causal-nomological or irreducibly teleological. Second, we shall address the metaphysical problem of agency: how agents, by acting intentionally, bring about changes in the world. Finally, we shall investigate the nature of intention and agents’ knowledge of their own intentional actions.
Students are expected to acquire the ability to reconstruct and analyze philosophical arguments or positions. These involve the understanding of validity and soundness of the arguments, the ability to identify background principles and assumptions as well as the ability to draw out the consequences of certain philosophical commitments. They are also expected to acquire certain oral communication skills such as the ability to formulate arguments concisely and accessibly in words, and to give short critical comments. They should also learn how to identify and execute an appropriate writing project. Finally, they should be familiarized with the main contemporary debates about philosophy of action. Learning outcomes shall be measured by term papers and oral presentations on the relevant topics.
Students’ performance shall be evaluated on the following grounds. First, students are required to attend classes regularly and to participate actively in seminar discussions. 30 % of their final grade shall be given on the basis of this in-class activity. Second, students are required to give one or two short presentations of some chosen topic(s). The choice of topic is optional, but overlap should be avoided. This will make up another 30 % of their final grade. Thirdly, students are required to submit a max. 4 000 word long term-paper. The chosen topic should be approved by the instructor and presented in the last class of the course. The term paper’s contribution to the final assessment of students’ performance is 40 %.