Kontakt: Universität Duisburg-Essen, Institut für Philosophie, Stichwort: Kongress 2008, Universitätsstr. 12, 45117 Essen - Tel.: 0201/183-3486, E-Mail: infodgphil2008.de

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Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. C.F. Gethmann

Institut für Philosophie
Stichwort: Kongress 2008
Universität Duisburg-Essen
Universitätsstr. 12
45117 Essen

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Kolloquium 30

Freitag, 19. September 2008, 9:00 - 12:45 Uhr, Raum S05T00B32

Action without the Will?

Leitung: Professor Dr. Ralf Stoecker (Potsdam)

  • 9:00 Uhr: Einführung
  • 9:15 Uhr: Professor Dr. Rüdiger Bittner (Bielefeld)
    Why the will?
  • 9:55 Uhr: Diskussion
  • 10:15 Uhr: Pause
  • 10:30 Uhr: Professor Dr. Timothy O'Connor (Bloomington, IN, USA)
    Is There a Place for the Will in the Emerging Sciences of Human Action?
  • 11:10 Uhr: Diskussion
  • 11:30 Uhr: Pause
  • 11:45 Uhr: Priv.-Doz. Dr. Neil Roughley (Bielefeld)
    Practical Irrationality and the Will
  • 12:25 Uhr: Diskussion

Action without the Will?

It is almost a triviality that human actions presuppose the will. Actions, as a matter of course, just seem to be the things we do because we will them. Even if it has to be conceded that we sometimes act unwillingly or involuntarily, these acts evidently get their special character from their contrast to ordinary, voluntary actions, i.e. actions we perform willingly.
The tight connection between agency and will is not only part of our everyday life but was also taken for granted for long periods of the history of philosophy. Some of the best-known traditional philosophical puzzles explicitly refer to the will: whether there is “freedom of the will”, how to account for “weakness of will”, and whether there is anything more to moral excellence then having a “good will”.
In the light of these considerations the title question of the proposed colloquium must appear patently absurd: The will seems to be at the very core of human agency. But in stark contrast to this supposed triviality, modern philosophical action theory rarely mentions the will. The standard account of human agency that has dominated action theory as well as the philosophy of mind over the last decades evolved out of a thorough criticism of traditional volitionalism, and indeed seemed to do very well without the will.  According to what became the standard account, agency is characterized by an action’s being caused by an appropriate pair of intentional attitudes (a desire and a belief). No will is involved. At best, the will survived as either some element of the standard account (as e.g. in Harry Frankfurt’s conception) or as the faculty of agency as a whole.
In recent years the standard account has come under fire from several directions, leading to various proposals for either modification or wholescale revision. Hence, it is worthwhile considering whether there may again be a stronger role for the will to play in action theory. This is the question to be addressed in the colloquium.

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