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Mele's agnosticism toward act individuation


Alfred Mele has a well-staked out position in the debate on action individuation, but it's one where the dimensions of his view have been worked out without him realising it. The view amounts to not taking sides in the debate.


Because of his not taking sides, I will call his view the agnostic view of action individuation. It's not that he denies that one can take a position one way or another, but that he will remain neutral with respect to each of the minimizing, maximizing, or componential views of action individuation.


I am not wedded to the idea that the neutrality of the agnostic view is a view at all. One could probably easily convince me that Mele's position is not a position at all. After all, he has not worked out an argument for it, and he certainly has not considered objections to it. But let me try to explain what I think Mele's agnostic position is.


Mele (1992, 1997, 2003) discusses intentional action. He notes that a part of such discussions sometimes involves an explanation of the constitution, identification and individuation of actions. An account of intentional action is consistent with any of the theories of action individuation, including the minimizing view of Davidson and Anscombe, the maximizing view of Goldman, or the componential view of Ginet, etc. If each view is consistent with an account of intentional action, then it is possible to remain neutral on the most plausible conceptions in the debate of action individuation. Therefore, Mele remains agnostic with respect to a view of action individuation.


Since Mele admits that any of the views of action individuation can apply to a view on intentional action, he sees that there is a connection between the two. If there is a connection between the two, then the position one takes up - even if that position is not well defined or positively conceived - is indeed a position. Therefore, Mele's agnosticism with respect to theories of action individuation is a view worthy of consideration in discussions of action individuation.


NOTE: Mele (online ms) is the only place that he takes up a particular view of action individuation. In the paper, he endorses a Davidsonian or minimizing view of action individuation. Zhu and Buckareff, commentators of Mele, point out that his view is not consistent with Goldman's maximizing view, in spite of his claim to the contrary: "I... believe that the results can be translated into the language of the other main competing theories of individuation" (Mele ms, 9).


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