Reasons for Action: Wittgensteinian and Davidsonian perspectives in historical, meta-philosophical and philosophical context


  • Hans-Johann Glock University of Zurich


action, reasons for action, Davidson Donald, Wittgenstein Ludwig, 20th century philosophy


My paper reflects on the debate about reasons for action and action explanations between Wittgensteinian teleological approaches and causalist theories inspired by Davidson. After a brief discussion of similarities and differences in the philosophy of language, I sketch the prehistory and history of the controversy. I show that the conflict between Wittgenstein and Davidson revolves neither around revisionism nor around naturalism. Even in the philosophy of mind and action, Davidson is not as remote from Wittgenstein and his followers as is commonly assumed: there are numerous points of contact of both a biographical and a substantive kind. The real conflict concerns the difference between Davidson’s official subjectivist approach to reasons for action, according to which they are mental states of believing and desiring (or their onsets) on the one hand, and an objectivist approach, according to which reasons for action are what is believed or desired, non-mental facts or states of affairs.

Author Biography

Hans-Johann Glock, University of Zurich



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