A cause for concern: reasons, causes and explanation

D. Hutto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper argues against causalism about reasons in three stages. First, the paper investigates Professor Davidson's sophisticated version of the claim that we must understand reason-explanations as a kind of causal explanation to highlight the fact that this move does no explanatory work in telling us how we determine for which reasons we act. Second, the paper considers Davidson's true motivation for regarding reasons-explanations as causal which connects with his claim that reasons are causes. He advocates anomalous monism in order to solve the mysterious connection problem. In assessing his proposed solution to this problem, the paper examines his 'extension reply' to the charge that his token identity theory ultimately results in epiphenomenalism. The paper argues that only a reading of this reply makes for a stable anomalous monism but for this reason Davidson's compatiblist metaphysics is unfit for the task of solving the mysterious connection problem. Given that reductive accounts are lncornpatible with the special features of reasons explanations, the paper concludes that we must reverse the orthodoxy once agaln and eschew causalism about reasons and reason-explanations. Finally, the paper considers a possible way of recasting our understanding of causation so that the mysterious connection problem disappears.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-401
JournalPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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