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If we take actions to be the actualization of some potential, this seems to suggest that there must be an actual and a potential which are interacting in some way so as to produce an actualized potential, which is the product of action.

The question is about a regress that might be noted: if there really are such actions, shouldn't there also be that which is actual and that which is potential? Doesn't the process of actualization presuppose the existence of things that are actualizing and things that are actualized?

In short, how can we talk about doings without talking about things, independent of said doings, that are doing?

And if this is the case, isn't the self-legislating action that is present in some current Kantian pragmatists such as Brandom unable to sustain itself without eventually admitting an ontological commitment to things?

  • Actions as actualization of something potential is the traditional Aristotelian view, and your description suggests the kind of pre-existence of the potential, which is all the way Platonist. It is well known that such hypostatizations lead to regresses, the prototype being of ideas of ideas of ideas that Aristotle used against Plato. The post-Kantian view is that action is to be taken as primitive (Kant viewed concepts as rule-following actions) which eliminates actualization, interpretation, volition, etc., regresses. Ryle, Wittgenstein, pragmatists, existentialists, etc., adopt this view. – Conifold Oct 13 '16 at 21:05
  • @Conifold We still talk about things doing though. I don't understand how there can be action without a doer, and I think that any explicit definition of action without the positing of a doer is going to be very odd. We can say that an explicit definition is inconsequential, but insofar as our philosophical discourse is explicit I think the point is relevant. I'd be interested in what is meant explicitly by 'action' without the recognition of a doer. If you think that the explicit definition can include a doer and be of no difficulty to Kantian pragmatics I'd also be interested in hearing it. – Goob Oct 13 '16 at 23:17
  • You are right about skepticism of "explicit definitions". As you know, in this tradition meaning is learned through use, so definitions, rationalizations, giving and asking for reasons, etc., only become intelligible atop a functioning practice of which "making it explicit" is a part. So if we are talking fundamentally (not within a representational model), it is not the action that is unintelligible without an actor but an actor without a grasp of actions first, and many of them at that. What action is, is learned by acting and being acted on, definitions are at best learning aids. – Conifold Oct 14 '16 at 0:24

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