On the need for a theory of primitive action
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Activity, passivity, and intellectualist motivations To begin our discussion of action, consider the distinction between active and passive movement implicit in the introductory discussion of doings and happenings. I act when I leap from a cliff, but I do not act in being thrown from that same cliff. I am active in the former case because my behavior is settled (at least partially) by me. I am passive in the latter case because my behavior is settled entirely by external forces. But the distinction between active and passive movement cannot be captured simply by distinguishing movement generated from within the agent from movement generated from without. A bomb placed within an agent does not produce action by exploding. Nor is it enough to require the internal cause to be a properly functioning part of the agent, for peristaltic contractions in the intestines and the cardiac cycle, although perfectly natural, are not actions. Nor will a broad appeal to neuroanatomy suffice, because seizures have neural origins but nonetheless fail to qualify as actions.