p. 548                                  CHOICE                                  November 2000

 

38-1494                                             B105                                                       99-3910 ClP
Juarrero, Alicia. Dynamics in action: intentional behavior as a complex system.  
MIT, 2000 (1999).  288p bibl index afp ISBN 0-26210081-9, $40.00

38-1494a                                            BD541                                                   99-42108 CIP
Pearl, Judea. Causality: models, reasoning, and inference. Cambridge, 2000. 
384p bibl indexes ISBN 0-521-77362-8, $39.95

        Juarrero's Dynamics in Action and Pearl's Causality both propose radically new perspectives on causation and the explanation of human behavior. Juarrero (philosophy, Prince George's Community College) and Pearl (computer science, UCLA) exhibit unusually wide-ranging mastery of the philosophical and scientific literature. The works have much in common in their approach to analyzing causal explanation. Both authors provide comprehensive critical reviews of relevant literature. Both apply philosophical analysis to practical problems in explaining human actions and in practical decision making. Yet there is almost no overlap in the particular contents of the two works-remarkably, they have virtually no common references: among nearly 300 references in Juarrero and 400 in Pearl, only five authors appear in both bibliographies.

          Juarrero proposes a new framework for explaining human action. She probes deeply into the springs of human action to explicate the secret link between mental intentions and physical behavior. She begins with a critique of Aristotle's legacy in attempts to understand human agency, arguing that modem philosophy has largely lost the insight of his distinction of four causes countenancing only mechanistic efficient causes, while perpetuating Aristotle's erroneous principle that nothing moves itself. Juarrero's work is a paradigm of the integration of philosophical analysis with neuropsychological research, evolutionary theory, complex systems theory, and the physics of nonlinear systems. Causes of human action appear as dynamic constraints on complex adaptive systems. She draws implications for the practical understanding of human freedom and responsibility, even proposing bridges between the literary world and science.

          Pearl critically reviews the major literature on causation, both in philosophy and in applied statistics in the social sciences. His formal models, nicely illustrated by practical examples, show the power of positing objectively real causal connections, counter to Hume's skepticism, which has dominated discussions of causality in both analytic philosophy and statistical analysis. Probabilities, Pearl argues, reflect subjective degrees of belief, whereas causal relations describe objective physical constraints. He reveals the role of substantive causes in statistical analyses in examples from medicine, economics, and policy decisions.

          Both works are highly ambitious in rejecting traditional views. Although the arguments are meticulous and represent intensive research, their criticisms of mainstream traditions are destined to arouse controversy. Both are written clearly and enthusiastically, but technical details will make heavy going for general readers. Juarrero's and Pearl's books will greatly interest philosophers and scientists who are concerned with causality and the explanation of human behavior. Upper-division undergraduates and above.H. C. Byerly, emeritus, University of Arizona