Philosophy and the real reasons for action: G. H. von Wright's understanding explanations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

25 Downloads (Pure)


According to the received view, philosophy of action took a justified turn towards causalism because anti-causalists failed the causalist challenge about efficacious reasons. This paper contests that view by examining the ways in which Georg Henrik von Wright responded to causalism in his later philosophy. First, von Wright attacked the subjectivism of causalism by arguing for an objectivist view that construes reasons not as subjective mental states but as external facts of the agent's situation. Second, von Wright fundamentally disagreed with the view of philosophical inquiry that underpinned causalism. For von Wright, the task of philosophy was conceptual: to explicate what one is looking for when one is looking for the real reasons for action. In contrast, for causalists the task was ontological: to determine what kind of item in the world the real reason for action is. Examining von Wright's account contributes to contemporary assessments of the metaphilosophical dimension of the reasons/causes debate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-323
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Dive into the research topics of 'Philosophy and the real reasons for action: G. H. von Wright's understanding explanations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this