Qualitative Approach

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The approaches we’ve discussed in this course in regard to action, the causal approach and the qualitative approach, are each worthy of fierce debate. Despite the persuasiveness of each, I believe there is one that is slightly more attractive than the other. Charles Taylor characterized these two general approaches as looking for an answer to, “what is the nature of action? Or otherwise put, what distinguishes (human) action from other kinds of events” (Taylor, pg. 77-78)? Personally, I find the causal approach to provide the most appealing answer. I believe it would be helpful to elucidate why I’ve come to this conclusion by giving an account of each approach. Both the causal approach and the qualitative approach agree that, in explaining …show more content…
Taylor states that under the causal approach, “actions are events which are peculiar in that they are brought about by desires, or intentions, or combinations of desires and beliefs. As events, actions may be described among other ways as physical movements…In this, they resemble a host of other events which are not actions. What distinguishes them is a peculiar type of psychological cause: that they are brought on by desires or intentions” (Taylor, pg. 78). To understand an action is to understand the contents of the mental state that precedes the movement since they are separate and prior to our actions. As agents, we may have privileged access to our beliefs, desires, or intentions, which give us knowledge of our own actions. Our actions can serve to specify these mental states but an action may also fail to express an agent if it doesn’t reflect the internal mental states of the agent. Davidson is of the belief that non-causal understandings ultimately fail where causal explanation does not in making clear why an agent performs an action. In explaining his dissatisfaction with non-causal understandings, Davidson focuses on a particular scenario. In this example a man is driving a car and he is approaching a turn. The man knows he should signal, he knows how to signal, and in this context he raises his arm. Some may be of the opinion that the man’s raising of his arm is ‘signaling’, and under the context placing aspects of the qualitative approach that may seem appropriate. Yet, Davidson asserts there are complications that result from accepting this view without further contemplation. Davidson writes that, “he had a reason to raise his arm, but this has not been shown to be the reason why he did it” (Davidson, pg. 692). The man could have simply been moving his arm for a plethora of other reasons such as to block the sun or wave. As such, it feels that there is a necessity in the causal

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