Academic year
Josefa Toribio
Department of Philosophy
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 7. Issues in Contemporary Theoretical and Practical Philosophy
2009-09-29 - 2009-12-22
tue 15:30-18:00
Room 211 Fac. Filosofia Edifici B UAB



The course will cover contemporary analytic theories of action and intentionality. We will begin with an overview of theories of causation and events and critically examine the causal theory of action. We will consider whether the causal theory of action is capable of accommodating the role of the agent in acting and focus on the puzzle of agency. We will discuss the role of reasons and intentions in action, and whether acting essentially involves trying. We shall discuss the differences between causalism and volitionism. Knowledge of our own actions and the contrast between practical and epistemic responsibility will also be important topics of discussion.

Content of the Course:

Week 1: Course overview. Assignment of presentations.
Week 1 will be dedicated to an overview of the course and organisational matters. We shall proceed to assign presentation slots. Don’t miss this meeting!
Week 2: Events and actions
Week 3: Intention
Week 4: The causal theory of action
Week 5: Reasons for action
Week 6: The two faces of intention
Week 7: Trying and volitionism
Week 8: Knowledge of action
Week 9: Agency and control
Week 10: Practical vs. epistemic responsibility


Bibliography Philosophy of Action.pdf72.69 KB


We shall employ well-established methods in analytic philosophy: logical and conceptual analysis, informed by empirical findings, where relevant.
A detailed analysis and assessment of arguments and claims presented in the course will be undertaken as well as the articulation and argumentative defense of answers to some of the main questions the philosophy of action aims to answer.


20% for in-class activity, 30% for presentations, 50% for a final 2,500 word essay, which should be handed in on by 4 pm on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 to me. The essay may be, if you so wish, on the same topic as your presentation.

All attendees (including auditors) will be required to lead seminar discussions at least once. A presentation should be a critical discussion rather than a summary (after all, the presenter can assume that other participants have done the reading, and the other participants will make it the case that such an assumption is correct). The presentation can concern any topic connected with the week’s reading that is of interest to the presenter. Seminar presentations may be given using notes or overheads, but they may not be read aloud from a pre-written paper. They shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes.
Students will be given detailed guidelines for their presentations, and it should be kept in mind that the goal of each presentation is to focus a critical discussion of some of the arguments that appear in the paper under discussion.

Discussion is of the essence for this seminar. To achieve this, everyone should come to the seminar ready to participate. Take notes while you are reading. Write down any aspect of the reading that you find interesting. This would help force you to engage the reading in a serious way so that you’ll be primed to participate actively in the discussion.


The primary class readings are the required readings to be completed before the class it is assigned for. Those primary readings that are appropriate for students class presentations are marked with an asterisk.(attached document)

Useful websites on the philosophy of action

Useful websites on how to write philosophy papers
Writing a Philosophy Paper (Peter Horban)
Guide to the Study of Philosophy (Garth Kemerling)
What Does He Want? (Geoffrey Payzant)
Tips on Writing a Philosophy Paper (Douglas Portmore)
Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper (James Pryor)