DOI: 10.1111/phis.12258 ISSN:

Agency: Let's mind what's fundamental1

Robert H. Wallace
  • Philosophy


The standard event‐causal theory of action says that an intentional action is caused in the right way by the right mental states. This view requires reductionism about agency. The causal role of the agent must be nothing over and above the causal contribution of the relevant mental event‐causal processes. But commonsense finds this reductive solution to the “agent‐mind problem”, the problem of explaining the relationship between agents and the mind, incredible. Where did the agent go? This paper suggests that this challenge against event‐causal reductionism is importantly related to debates about fundamentality. It also suggests that extant event‐causal answers to the agent‐mind problem, ones that suggest that part of an agent's mind can stand proxy for the agent herself, fail against the challenge. It sketches an alternative reductive view that appeals to entity grounding. This view resolves the commonsense challenge and promises to be theoretically fruitful with respect to other longstanding problems with the event‐casual view. The paper concludes with a burden‐shifting argument against emergentist agent‐causal theories and non‐reductive event‐causal theories of agency.