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The Causal Theory of Action: Overpopulation Essay

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The problem of mental overpopulation is pretty easy to see. It is visible in situations like freezing on a test, cramping on the field, or overthrowing the first baseman. Basically, those times when you overthink or try to do too much in a situation, those thoughts actually become detrimental and stop us from performing as well as expected. Philosophers Ruben and Dreyfus do a really good job of highlighting this problem in the Causal Theory of Action. Thinkers like Davidson and Clarke do not do enough to solve this problem of mental overpopulation. They attempt to show that the Causal Theory of Action forms the foundation on which we act. The problem of mental overpopulation reveals the cracks in the casual theory’s foundation. Thus, the Causal Theory of Action cannot withstand the problem of mental overpopulation.
The Causal Theory of Action is one way that philosophers try to explain why humans act the way we do. Davidson is really the first to formulate and popularize the theory. He believed a person’s action was the result of a primary reason and belief under a description. In other words, “the primary reason for an action is its cause” (Davidson 686). Primary reasons consist of pro attitudes and beliefs, “which are states or dispositions, not events; therefore they cannot be causes” (Davidson 693). It is hard for me to see the cause-effect relationship Davidson talks about at times. He tries to create a causal explanation for action, but does not fully connect the dots between primary reasons and actions for every situation. He tries to create a pretty generalizable formula to explain human action. But it does not seem to apply in every situation. This is where Ruben and Dreyfus and the problem of mental overpopulation seem...


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...n actions. People act to gain expertise of a skill and bring to themselves a certain sense of fulfillment until they try to master another task. To the dismay of thinkers like Davidson and Clarke, sometimes, thinking just gets in the way.



Works Cited

Clarke, Randolph. "Skilled Activity and the Causal Theory of Action." Philosophy and
Phenomenological Research. 3.1 (2010): 523-550. Print.
Davidson, Donald. "Actions, Reasons, and Causes." Journal of Philosophy. 60.23 (1963): 685-
700. Print.
Dreyfus, Hubert, and Stuart Dreyfus. Mind Over Machine: The Power of Human Intuition and Expertise in the Era of the Computer. New York: The Free Press, 1988. 16-51. Print.
Gould, Stephen. "The Brain of Brawn." New York Times [New York] 25 Jun 2000, Opinion. Print.
Montero, Barbara. "The Myth of 'Just Do It'." New York Times [New York] 09 Jun 2013, Opinionator. Print.



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