Master of Arts
Date of Defense
Eric Wiland, Ph.D.
I argue that agents, by exercising their wills, cause action-results and that volitions or willings are uncaused basic actions. I motivate the existence of volitions by highlighting the important role they play in providing an answer to Wittgenstein's famous question, “What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?” That volitions do not have action-results is central to my argument. This has as a consequence that volitions are causally basic actions, i.e., actions which do not have results that are caused by more basic actions. That is, there is no action that I perform by means of which I cause the result of an act of volition. Since volitions do not have results, a plausible answer to Wittgenstein's question is available. Next, I argue that volitions are best regarded as uncaused events. Throughout the essay, I assume that humans act for reasons, that they have free will, and that free will is incompatible with determinism.
Redmond, David James, "Rational Action: Reasons, Causes, and Choices" (2010). Theses. 242.