I recently read Anton Ford's paper The Province of Human Agency, which recently appeared in Νοῦς (the third number of its fifty-second volume), and it was a bit of an odd experience in that I am extremely sympathetic to (what I take to be) the basic perspective from which he writes, and the basic position he's trying to advocate for (and I really liked his dissertation), but also (and I have this experience a lot with let's call them Pittsburgh Anscombians) I found the paper itself to be frustratingly hard to get a handle on. (I also had the somewhat melancholy thought that my papers dammit would have been relevant to its composition and its successors, should there be any: here is someone, Ford, who would probably be interested in my stuff! And might even have had cause to read some had I remained in the academy, and conferred, and whatnot, but who now will, basically, not.) But it was also somewhat annoying because I thought the use made of Brian O'Shaughnessy was very shabby. I thought I would write a short post substantiating that thought. I may or may not have succeeded in substantiating it; I definitely failed in writing a short post, or one that confines itself to that task.
Here's the context. A picture of action theory is given in which two views do combat: volitionalism, in which all we ever do, sensu stricto, is will, or intend, or try (in some purely mental sense of "try"!), and what Ford calls, identifying it with the mainstream, "corporealism", in which all we ever do is move our bodies, in some sense which is unfortunately not laid out particularly clearly. Davidson, for instance, explicitly endorses this view … or something like it. (The view Davidson explicitly endorses is also not particularly clear, so that fits, at least!) The immediate unclarity is perhaps harmless, since Ford will later extend it to encompass one which explicitly has it that we do do more than merely move our bodies (Feinberg's, on p 712): the essential point for corporealism isn't that the limit of our as we might put it contributions as agents to what happens stops at the body, but that it stops somewhere short of what happens. (As is also true of volitionalism.) After some point, what we do is over, and the rest is just the workings-out of cause and effect ("up to nature", in Davidson's phrase), and (therefore) not what we do. Of course philosophers who speak in such a way are willing to countenance what is apparently an inexact habit of speech in which those effects do count as what we do, by, I suppose, courtesy. Ford: they "uniformly go on to say that, given the right setting and a certain amount of luck, moving one's body might amount to something as sophisticated as turning on the lights" (697), owing to the possibility of redescribing a cause in terms of its effects (the famous "accordion effect"). But this is, apparently, if we are to be rigorously philosophical, loose talk. (Mark that luck, though!) Or such is, roughly, how Ford sets it out.
Given, then, that the issue is not really just about moving one's body and what it might mean to say that all we ever do (in some privileged sense) is that, the failure to get clear on what "all we ever do is move our body" is perhaps excusable. Really, we are interested in the idea that all we ever do (in some privileged sense) is less than everything that happens when we do what we do (in that privileged sense). But that doesn't remove the fundamental issue, which is that we don't, yet, know what that privileged sense is! As a result of which we don't know, for instance, how much of a courtesy the extension of the title of deeds to those things which a person's privileged deeds cause is. Maybe not much!
More of that later, though.
In order, then, to produce conviction in the reader that corporealism is rampant, and found among partisans of numerous philosophical orientations (not merely among those with scientistic or physicalist sympathies), we get a brief list, with one or two supporting quotations, of folks said to endorse it—Davidson and Michael Smith, but also Helen Steward, Adrian Haddock, John McDowell, and Brian O'Shaughnessy. The point of such a list is, in a way, rhetorical: it says, look, this isn't just Davidson and Davidsonians (*ahem*, no matter what one might gather from the actually following text …): it's pervasive in modern action theory. It's a deep tendency. One wants to swell the ranks. (In this light including O'Shaughnessy is kind of strange, actually, at least if my suspicion that he isn't much read is correct.) That this is accomplished by corralling lots of short quotations from the above-named persons, which evince what are superficially similar positions, is somewhat astounding, since Ford doesn't actually establish that they are the same position, which would require expounding on each in context. The fact that two philosophers summing up their positions in a few sentences might use similar formulations no more establishes that their positions are consonant than the fact that O'Shaughnessy and a probate proceeding are both concerned with "the will" establishes that they have the same topic. If the philosophers in question all came from broadly the same school or lineage it might be fine, but Ford's whole point is that they don't; we ought to be wary of casual syncretism.
Let us roughly group what follows thus: (a), why the inclusion of O'Shaughnessy is prima facie puzzling (there are actually lots of reasons for this, and I've only included the one that first came to me, as I was reading Ford's paper); (b), why, on the other hand, one might be tempted to include him, and what Ford quotes by way of supporting this inclusion; (c), the connection of this to other parts of the paper; (d), a look at the overall argumentative structure of the paper; it's even less specific to O'Shaughnessy than (c) is but there's something notably weird about it. Finally, there are scads of notes, including two long ones that almost constitute a rare thing from me, a defense of Davidson. We will begin, conventionally, with (a).
(a) It's been a while since I read The Will, but I remember bits of it well enough to be able to say that even before getting to the quotation brought in to justify the identification of O'Shaughnessy as a corporealist, one ought to find the mere fact of his inclusion strange. For he does not merely fail to join the chorus of those apologizing for their strange views with reference to the accordion effect, he explicitly mentions it to say that it's bosh—he considers at length the case of someone adjusting a radio's volume by adjusting its volume knob (by moving his fingers), and whether one ought to say, when speaking properly, that really he's only moving his fingers, and the rest is simply an effect, and concludes that … one should not say that. (Nor does he identify any point at which one would be correct to say: here is the point at which the agent's contribution stops.) So he not only does not do what we are told that corporealists uniformly do, he seems to be rejecting corporealism in one part of his (admittedly, long and complex) text, something that ought to make us demand more than simply a single quotation with no further explication to justify his inclusion in the corporealist body. O'Shaughnessy even expresses himself, in the course of this discussion, with prose that any Thompson epigone ought to admire:
Now the peculiar thing about the utterance, "He is really only moving his fingers", is the word "only". What is it that is being ruled out? What is it that he does not do? A strange and primitive sort of linguistic reaction wells up within one at this stage. What is it that he does not do? "Why, he doesn't do that", we say, pointing at the movement of the knob that he is moving, "He isn't doing that", pointing to the moving and glowing insides of the wireless, "He isn't doing the causal connections!" This is a bizarre and wild outbreak of the philosophical unconscious. (The Will, 2nd ed, 109)
On p 108 he says outright that (supposing the radio is actually working, the knob not jammed, etc.) "he is really only moving his fingers" is "false". The discussion is quite lengthy and proceeds somewhat eccentrically (his immediate concern is not Ford's, or Davidson's), but I find nothing in it to undermine my initial seeming recollection that O'Shaughnessy does not believe that action, strictly aspeaking, extends only to bodily movements, or indeed to less than what happens, much less only to willings in some bad merely internal sense (O'Shaughnessy's own sense of "willing" is of course more complicated than that), and plenty to support it, such as, say, "In section (e) … I shall indicate what a valid motive for such a restriction on the extension of 'action' might be, and show that no such justification here exists" (117). Seems pretty unambiguous, if merely promised (but I'm reading it through again in order, and don't have all day, you know ).
(b) I'm not going to attempt to summarize the third chapter of the first volume of The Will (since it really is about that much, if not that and the second chapter for context, that's relevant to O'Shaughnessy's consideration of the whether sensu stricto one only ever moves one's body), but I do think this ought to suffice to show that prima facie he's an odd choice to name as a corporealist, underspecified as that position is, and Ford does very little to support his inclusion. Nevertheless one must admit that statements such as "once that outbreak [of the philosophical unconscious] is fully analysed, we shall then find ourselves in a position to use the once metaphysical 'I cannot move the knob of the wireless' non-metaphysically. Analysing such a metaphysical utterance is the very complicated process of giving it a use." (121–2) as, well, they might make one think that in the end we will end up restricting actions, in some sense, to bodily movements (always excepting, as O'Shaughnessy does explicitly mention, actions that essentially involve no gross movement) after all. And indeed the entire second part of the first volume is concerned with "The Immediate Object of the Will", namely, as it turns out, the body. (The modifier, obviously, is important.)
It's not that, however, which Ford adduces, but this sentence (-fragment, in context), which is, I think, somewhat less than dispositive, even taken by itself, and much less than dispositive in its larger context:
the event of willing physically develops, in a naturally appointed causal manner, to the point at which it incorporates the event of limb movement, and completes itself in so doing. (512)
I think it is reasonable to say that this does not precisely imply that all we ever do, sensu stricto, is move our bodies, or that all that happens after the movement (or some other thing) is technically not our doing. For one thing, when I turn the volume knob, the (event of the) turning takes place simultaneously with (the event of) my fingers' moving! The event in which the willing completes itself, the event of the bodily movement, and the event of the moving of the thing moved by the body's moving can all be the same event. (And "willing" is a technical term for O'Shaughnessy; one oughtn't just drop it into one's piece as if its meaning is clear to all and move on.) And yet this may be thought a rather special case; when the sharp pockets the eight ball, or when Rube Goldberg operates his light switches, the body's movement ends before the goal is attained. (On the other hand, it might be thought that Ford's examples of transaction, too, are much more like turning the radio knob than like what Rube characteristically does, in that one is continually interacting with the material on which one is acting.) So something is, if not fishy precisely, in need of explanation; is all our willing really exhausted in bodily movements?
It is somewhat tempting to observe that O'Shaughnessy's official remit in the section in which that quotation occurs is "bodily action", and so he may simply be concerned with actions that are no more than, i.e. not more extended than, bodily movements (though he does also refer to turnings on of lights). And I think he really is concerned, here, mostly with basic actions (a concept he countenances, as do I), because I think he is, here, concerned with wondering about, well, the curious yet oh so classic duality seemingly exhibited by action (psychic phenomena, yet also physical phenomena!), and the marriage of mind and body exhibited in intentional bodily movements would seem to be the place in which that problematic is exhibited in exemplary fashion (this is a person, after all, who wrote a paper called "Trying (As the Mental 'Pineal Gland')" and repeats the pineal gland line again in The Will). There is something to be investigated about the will and the body—about willings and movings—which is different from the investigation of whether it is proper to identify action with bodily movement.
Now it is from the late discussions explicitly about action (the first part, that I was quoting from in (a), is not about action as such) clear that O'Shaughnessy also countenances non-basic, instrumental or constitutive actions, though unfortunately giving examples of his doing so is made more difficult by the fact that he also countenances the concept of the unintentional action, so when he speaks of starting an avalanche by firing a rifle (as on 458; N.B., though, not "by contracting a finger" on a trigger that happens to be hard by!), he means this to be an unintentional doing. It ought to be borne in mind that accepting the idea of a basic action, and holding the position that ultimately everything one does one does by or in doing basic actions (singly or in series), does not force one to hold the further position that those basic actions qua intentional actions are bodily movements in the way Davidson seems to intend; that is, such a person can (and should!) fully adopt Ford's points on pp 707f. (But then, as far as I can tell, so also can and should Davidson.) (Such a person should also adopt my points in "Second Nature and Basic Action"!) That is, one might analyze the structure of actions into the instrumental/constitutive and the basic, such that all of the former are accomplished (in some way) by or in the latter, without committing oneself to identifying action with bodily movement, or believing that the effects of the basic actions are not properly our doings.
For all that, though, O'Shaughnessy especially in the second volume of The Will, and especially its latter portions, does seem awfully preoccupied, when talking about both action and the will, with bodily movements, in a way that might lead one to think that that really is all he thinks action amounts to. And it's not clear to me in this paper but it seems at times as if for Ford recognizing basic actions makes you a corporealist.
(c) As alluded to at the beginning of the post, there's a rather wide range of positions that get put together as "corporealism" or that count as "identifying action with bodily movement", and it's not always super clear what it's intended to be captured. It doesn't help, of course, that his leading target, Davidson, is monumentally unclear about how to construe his position, in two ways. I suspect it's at least correct that Davidson thinks that all our primitive or basic actions are bodily movements, and that he thinks all our basic actions are bodily movements under bodily-movement descriptions (though the argument he advances, if that really his supposed to be the position, is notably bad). The second thing there is in my opinion incorrect and as far as I can tell comes in with no clear motivation other than Davidson's apparent belief that it's theoretically neat; at any rate, even saying that much doesn't amount to the claim, which of course Davidson also makes, that all we do is move our bodies (regardless of the description qua which these movements are intentional actions), and when he adds that, he seems to be contradicting himself ! (It still seems unfair of Ford to saddle him with the charges that he doesn't believe in instrumental action or that for him the body has no need of the extra-bodily .) But then he's got Feinberg as a target, too, and Feinberg explicitly does not believe that "all the actions there are" are bodily movements.
Ford characterizes both corporealism and voluntarism as species of "practical dualism", and says that such a doctrine in general
divides what is presumed to be an unproblematic case of intentional action, like turning on the lights, into two causally-related [sic] parts, one of which is the agent's contribution to what happens, and the other of which is "up to nature". Although I have said that materialism marks no such division, the suspicion may linger that it must do so, on pain of embracing an absurd triumphalism, according to which there are no limits to what one can do intentionally. (712)
It's almost like Frankfurt's concern in "The Problem of Action", but his solution is (in my memory of it, anyway), a cybernetic more-of-the-same. (And one ought to allow, in some circumstances, that the agent is doing whatever she's doing even if she isn't following the unfolding progress, ready to intervene, pace Frankfurt.)
I've quoted his remark about materialism and triumphalism as well because I find the characterization of why someone actually would want to speak of leaving something "up to nature" rather confusing—what the temptation actually is, or, otherwise put, what leaving something up to nature is supposed to mean. (That is, I'm not sure what limits Ford thinks might be lifted in triumph. We would be able to … turn on lights? Glow like filaments?) Why would someone think that? What sort of not-doing might be in question in the "part" that's up to nature? Surely there's an innocuous sense in which, once I have poured the poison into the king's ear, I allow its its fatal action of, I don't know, its binding to red blood cells and preventing them from carrying oxygen, a natural potential which we exploit, to run its course? Must saying that mean saying that I didn't kill the king, I merely tilted my wrist just so? Whence the temptation to make a special place for the body? What even is a body, anyway?
There is a strange missed opportunity early on in the introduction of "materialism" as a term:
It did not escape [Aristotle's] notice that a person needs to move herself in order to move something else. Nor did he fail to appreciate that when one moves a stone by pushing it with a stick, there are real and important differences between the "moving" one does of the stone, the "moving" one does of the stick, and the "moving" one does of oneself. But none of this led him to fixate on the movement of the body. (700)
Unfortunately for me, Ford does not record where Aristotle notices this . Unfortunately for all of us, he doesn't record what those important differences are, or again in the paper take cognizance of fact that one must move oneself in order to move one's body, or what the significance for the philosophy of action that fact might have. We can take this, however, at least implicitly allowing that one can be a materialist in good standing while affirming that bodily movements are special, being both necessary for and different (in some important way!) from the movements of the non-bodily.
In a footnote, he does tell us that the materialist tradition includes Marx and many phenomenologists, adding that
one striking difference between phenomenologists, on the one hand, and analytic action theorists, on the other, is that the former are apt to devote while chapters of their main works to thinking about the human body. There is nothing remotely similar in the Davidsonian corpus. And that is the great irony of what I am calling "corporealism": though analytic action theorists constantly mention "bodily movement", the nature of the human body is rarely thematized as a topic of philosophical reflection. (718n28)
Reader, I found this infuriating: O'Shaughnessy not only devotes a whole hell of a lot of The Will precisely to the human body, much of what he says resounds harmoniously with Merleau-Ponty. (Ford says next to nothing about it.) It's especially irksome given that Ford spends more time with this remark of Anscombe's, not obviously consonant with Aristotle's noticing:
People sometimes say that one can get one's arm to move by an act of will but not a matchbox; but if they mean 'Will a matchbox to move and it won't' the answer is 'If I will my arm to move in that way, it won't', and if they mean, 'I can move my arm but not my matchbox' the answer is that I can move the matchbox—nothing easier. (quoted on 706)
This seems to lose track of the idea that there is a real, much less an important, difference between the two movings. Something seems to have escaped Anscombe's notice, at least in the use Ford makes of this remark. What, after all, is the way in which I move my arm, when I move it to move the matchbox? And if I try—do I even know how to try?—to move the matchbox that way, do I? It's in the context of O'Shaughnessy's lengthy considerations of, basically, just this question that he first disputes that we only ever do the finger-moving, and not also the volume adjusting, but this doesn't lead him to gloss over the differences between the two. (It is bizarre of Ford to commend Aristotle for not "fixating" on the body and, in a footnote attached to just that commendation, commend phenomenologists for (and abuse analytic philosophers for not) occupying themselves deeply with the body. As we know, a "fixation" is a theory, or an object of study eventuating in a theory, one doesn't like.) If we retain notice of the necessity of moving oneself in order to move something else, then there must surely be a sense in which one can move oneself but not the matchbox: one doesn't move the matchbox in the way one moves oneself, or one wouldn't need to move oneself in order to move the matchbox. (Or the matchbox would be oneself, which is not a priori impossible.) Thus while I don't know what parts of Aristotle Ford had in his mind, what came first to mine was this:
It follows that the soul is analogous to the hand; for as the hand is a tool of tools, so the mind is the form of forms and sense the form of sensible things. (DA 432a)
Much could be made about the perception/action parallel being drawn in these few lines with respect to the instant problematic , but it flashed on me because, well, isn't it odd that we should even have a tool of tools? Like, we've got all these tools, right, both artifacts made (often using other tools!) for our purposes, and natural objects appropriated as-is to be used for this or that. Why don't we just use them? Why don't we use the tools, that is, directly, rather than using a tool of tools to use them? (And if for some reason we must use a tool of tools to use the tools, why mustn't we use a tool of tools of tools to use the tool of tools?) Haven't we, after all, just been assured that we can do precisely that, namely just use the (say) knife to peel the apple—nothing easier?
Well, the answer is, you can indeed peel an apple, but try to peel an apple that way, and you won't. For that matter, you can indeed move your spleen, but try to move it that way, and you won't. For O'Shaughnessy, as indeed for Merleau-Ponty, the "body" with which we are concerned does not include the spleen, but does, or at least can, include such incorporeal addenda as prosthetics (O'S) or canes (M-P) . (This is another thing that, all by itself, ought to give one pause before including O'Shaughnessy among the corporealists!) Such things are, for those who have learned how to use them, among the "immediate object[s] of the will", in O'Shaughnessy's phrase. I don't think "object" is the happiest term, or necessary for him, since it implies that the will acts on the body and the body, then, on something else; the point is the immediacy, which we do not enjoy (except if we have, as he puts it, "rare powers") with respect to knives.
One is tempted to say something like this: we need a tool of tools because the active powers of the soul do not extend directly to all the world, as infants are said to believe they do; we are finite beings whose practical efficacy requires physical intercession, and physical intercession in the world happens via the soul's physical expression, which is the body. (Ronald Polansky, in his commentary on De anima, puts it by saying "the hand reaches out to touch and grasp many things, while the soul through its cognitive faculties embraces the whole world of things" (496), which nicely sets up the hand not merely as like the soul or the soul as like the hand but the hand as the active counterpart to the soul's receptive nature.) And this is also why we do not need a tool of tools of tools: the body is the actualization of our active nature, not a tool which the soul makes use of (though it's not always easy to find the right way to express this thought). This poses no particular restriction on what counts as "the body" (it could include canes; it could exclude spleens; it is apt to be different for you and for me) or the range of activities in which our practical natures are immediately (or mediately) expressed. Whether this amounts to identifying actions with bodily movements is unclear; the "body" in question is not the biological body, and we have no reason not to say that the laces, when I tie them, are temporarily incorporated, to a limited purpose. (If we do this, we do so because the laces figure in the sole or most basic practical thought involved in lace-tying; we have lost grasp of "the body" independent from that in which the will expresses itself practically. Actually I think what to say about things not connected to the body that nevertheless figure in the most basic practical thought, like the cup one goes to grasp and to whose outline one's hand is conformed in anticipation, is a super interesting question, but I don't really have a settled opinion about it.) This is if not a distinct "part" at least relevantly different from what we accomplish in and/or by thus expressing ourselves, in that those further things we do are, well, again, being finite, we are dependent on, uh, nature and natural regularities to effect our desires. "Up to nature" gives the whole thing a rather helpless air, which Ford, with his previous rather unaccountable invocation of "luck", makes much of:
The dualist's conviction that an agent must leave something up to nature, even when all she is doing is turning on the lights, betrays an unrealistic conception of the ordinary objects that we use on a daily basis … the only "nature" in question is an incandescent light bulb … they are made by human beings to be used by human beings … it is no accident that they tend to turn on when people flip the switches that are made to turn them on. (713)
Ford doesn't say what the unrealistic conception actually is! (Does he think that it means, like, the woods? I honestly found this baffling.) Presumably, though, on it, it is an accident that light bulbs mostly do turn on when their switches are flipped. This only makes sense if "the rest is up to nature" means "sure, I flipped the switch, and it's anybody's guess what happens next", or something like that; but—whence might he have gotten that idea?  It is precisely because leaving things up to nature is not a matter of accident that we can make light bulbs at all; I can leave it up to the filament to glow when the current goes through it. Indeed, I don't need to know anything about the construction of light bulbs or the wiring of my home to operate a light switch. I just flip the switch! The rest—lovely nature—takes care of itself, and need not be represented in my practical or indeed theoretical thought at all . The temptation to speak of leaving stuff up to nature is not, I think, that otherwise we seem to be omnipotent, but the simple observation that I just loose the string and the arrow goes, flip the switch and the light turns on, pour the poison and the king dies, rub the sticks and the kindling lights, whatever, there's the thing I'm immediately doing, and the things that I do by so doing. (Ford wants to say that "when I intentionally turn on the lights, what I change intentionally is not merely the switch that I manipulate, but [also] the lights" (713). So does O'Shaughnessy, and, for that matter, so does Davidson. Ford's own formulation acknowledges that one manipulates the switch, but not the lights. How do the lights come to be light, rather than dark, then? Is it because the manipulation closes a circuit, which sends electricity through the filament, which causes the filament to get really hot and emit light? If so, is it merely by courtesy that we say that I changed the lights intentionally?) And although I need to rub my hands on the stick up here so that the other end down there turns in the wood, it is in the nature of the wood down there to be heated and ignite from the friction. I am turning, heating, igniting; but I am relying on nature to get me from deed to deed.
One is tempted to believe that in so saying one is not sinning against materialism, or at least falling into corporealism, and that O'Shaughnessy can safely be said to have evaded the charge. It seems, where it skirts territory Ford anathematizes, to be doing so innocuously, in unmetaphysical ways, and it seems to be drawing out the primacy and difference of bodily movement which he seems to tolerate in Aristotle. But I'm not certain, because Ford has McDowell in the beginning saying precisely that
"actualizations of our active nature" extend into the "goings-on in which natural things, like limbs, do natural things, like moving." For McDowell, it is things like hands, not things like handles, whose movements are realizations of our "active nature". The mind enters the world, he thinks, but only a little way[.] (698)
So, who knows! I mean, hands and not handles seems right up there with tools of tools and not tools. But I still think that O'Shaughnessy is being miscategorized. I certainly think that the diversity of positions putatively under consideration, relative to the attention given to any actual position, is unfortunate: it really does seem unclear to me whether assenting to "there are basic actions" is supposed to make one a corporealist. I don't think it does?
(d) Here's the overall structure of the paper: volitionalism asserts its primacy on the grounds of three considerations (which I will call "the first three"): fallibility (of bodily movement as against willing), separability (of willing from movement), and etiology (of bodily movement from willing). Against these corporealism asserts it has the advantage with another three considerations ("the second three"): pre-theoretical practical thought, embodiment, and animality. Things can't just stand there, though; corporealism has to address the first three. Ford gives it two options: deny the phenomena (an option he says is "rarely, if ever, exercised", possibly because of "its lack of promise" (705)) or to "grant the phenomena, but deny that they disqualify bodily movement as the prime expression of agency" (705).
However, materialism now comes along and says: just as the second three give corporealism the edge over volitionalism, so too they give materialism the edge over corporealism: if you find those considerations moving, you should be moved to materialism. Against that, corporealism advances counter-considerations against materialism: fallibility (of transaction as against bodily movement), separability (of bodily movement from transaction), and etiology (of transaction from movement). But wait—didn't the corporealist just say that those considerations have no force?
Ford says yes—the corporealist did just say that, and is therefore "in the impossible position of needing to deny out of one side of their mouths … exactly what they affirm out of the other that fallibility, separability and etiological priority establish the primacy of one expression of agency as against another" (711).
What's weird about this is: Ford is a person who likes to reject highest-common-factor type considerations. You know the sort of thing: formally, or from one limited perspective, these two things are the same, and so, we're stuck. He seems to envision the only possible route the corporealist could take against the volitionalist as being: "no consideration of separability ever favors any one conception of agency over any other". It's just not, formally, the sort of consideration that could do that. And yet, isn't there another possibility? Couldn't there be a substantive argument against the specific consideration, in which the corporealist simply says "this consideration of separability, for substantive reasons pertaining to (say) the nature of willing, or of tryings, or bodily movings, or whatever, doesn't favor volitionalism over corporealism"? (George Wilson—and I, in the second chapter of my dissertation!—have made arguments against "pure intending", for instance. As has, in a different vein, Thompson, I believe.)
It's possible that doing this would amount, in Ford's view, to denying the phenomena, because it disputes their characterization. (But it might only dispute their significance, but specifically with respect to their natures: accept the phenomena, deny the "thus …", but not because the genre of consideration is wrong.) If so, though, I don't know why he just says without expanding on it that the strategy lacks promise or is hardly ever undertaken: it seems promising to me, and he literally quotes O'Shaughnessy in the process of, if not undertaking specifically that project, at least developing a position from which to undertake it (717n14). Of course I've been denying that O'Shaughnessy is a corporealist, but Ford seems to be saying that it's not done by and not promising for anyone.
Similarly, corporealism could deny that the considerations it supposedly adduces against volitionalism do in fact move one all the way to materialism. For instance, consider pre-theoretical practical thought, and Rube Goldberg machines for turning lights on. I set one off by putting a teakettle to boil, and five minutes later a domino, pushed over by its rear neighbor, is pushing its fore neighbor over. I think that if you zoom in, as it were, just on that, pre-theoretical practical thought would be willing to say, well, you aren't doing that. (Pre-theoretical practical thought is not unrelated to O'Shaughnessy's philosophical unconscious! At the same time it probably would say I'm turning the light on, but the whole thing about the pre-theoretical is that one has to allow it to be not obviously systematic or self-consistent.) You just started it off, P-TPT might, quite plausibly, say. Feinberg looks pretty good on this score, if you ask me! (Ford's own discussion of how P-TPT approaches the corporealism-materialism divide is extremely theoretical.)
ETA on the following day: of course basic actions probably do suffice to make one a corporealist on this view, given the (only now clear to me) strong family resemblance between Ford's characterization here, and Lavin's, in "Must There Be Basic Action?", of the basic agent as one who as it were supervises the unfolding but does not participate in it as agent. But this is only a resemblance of characterization; it isn't support for the inclusion, and as we know (don't we, loyal audience of readers?) I think Lavin has things badly wrong about basic action.
 This is a joke, of course; this was written in far more than a day, and has involved reading far more of The Will (and of other things) than I initially predicted it might. But I'm leaving these first two parts sketchy.
 Specifically, he writes:
It is correctly assumed that unless the agent himself is aware of what he is doing with his body alone, unless he can conceive his movements as an event physically separate from whatever else takes place, his bodily movements cannot be his action. But it is wrongly supposed that such awareness and conception are impossible in the case of speaking or of tying one's shoelaces … if I tie my shoelaces, here is a description of my movements: I move my body in just the way required to tie my shoelaces. ("Agency", 51)
Ok, fine. But there's a big difference between "the agent is aware" and "it's not impossible for the agent to be aware"! Sure, the agent could aware of his movements under the anodyne description, but mostly, the agent is not, or if the agent is, it's in a derived, theoretical way. And when it is, it's in a derived practical way: I want to demonstrate how I move when I tie my shoelaces, and I know that I will move in that way if I tie my shoelaces, so I tie them. But here the syllogism is "I want to move however I move when I tie my laces; if I tie my laces I will do that; so: let me tie my laces". It's not the other way around! (It's interesting that Thompson and Lavin make this exact error when they argue against basic actions. The deep Davidsonian core of Pittsburgh Anscombianism!) But perhaps Davidson merely means: something like this has to be the case for my bodily movements not to be foreign to me; not: when I tie my shoelaces I move my hands under this description. One might say, for instance, that it's correctly supposed that unless beliefs can be adduced which display one's movements in a rational light and which the one would accept they cannot be one's actions, and point out that when one steps through a door without first checking what's on the far side obviously one believed that there was a floor there. That doesn't mean that one explicitly thought "there's a floor there, so I can step". One's bodily movements aren't foreign to one when tying one's laces because one can recognize them as one's own under a laces-inclusive description, might be the thought. Of course this doesn't lead to the conclusion that only bodily movements are actions, but neither does it exclude it. I think there just isn't a good reason to be found in "Agency" for restricting basic action to bodily movement! (AFAICT, and again this isn't coming from a careful re-reading, the structure is basically "here's an idea" followed by "here are responses to some objections". Ok, but how about a positive argument?)
The apparent contradiction lies in the juxtaposition of "once he has done one thing … each consequence presents us with a deed" (53), some of which are intentional (that is, as I would say, the one thing presents us with further actions) with bodily movements being "all the actions there are" (59), unless there's some extremely subtle distinction between "action" and "intentional deed". It's especially bad if the movements are intentional only under movement descriptions, because then one can't appeal as easily to the movements having been done for the sake of the further consequences, and because on 53 Davidson seems to be saying that the intention with which the body is moved is relevant to which of the further consequences are intentional, which is hard to make out unless the description is not cast solely in bodily terms. But I don't think we need to think that they are, even on Davidson's own terms. (It's really unclear to me why Davidson says that, about "all the actions there are". What would be lost to him if he just said "all primitive actions are bodily movements" and left it at that? For that matter, what would be lost to him if he just said "there is some set of primitive actions"? Not much, I suspect, especially in the first case.)
[T]hey do not need [the extra-corporeal] to state their position on the only other kind of action, non-primitive action, since there position is, in fact, purely hypothetical: … if the agent's bodily movement causes a further event, then the latter is also the agent's doing … the kind of "body" that corporealism attributes to us is one whose activity does not essentially involve any interaction with the extra-corporeal world … But the movement proper to a human body, and therefore to a human being, essentially involves extra-corporeal objects. (709)
(It's interesting to note, perhaps, that O'Shaughnessy also observes that someone who thinks that we only ever move our bodies is in danger of denying the existence of instrumental acts (109).) This impression is made more vivid by Ford's rather tendentious characterization of how the downstream effects get in the picture: they do so "given the right setting and a certain amount of luck" (697), as if people were in the habit of flicking their fingers and hoping that a light switch that might just be connected to a light in this very room might be nearby. Davidson of course says instead that "the rest is up to nature" (Agency, 59), a rather more defensible and much different claim (nature is the realm of laws, not of luck!), if one that does smack of the outbreak of the philosophical unconscious O'Shaughnessy notes: he isn't (pointing at the wire leading to the light bulb) doing the conductivity of copper! He isn't (pointing at the filament) doing the emission of photons!
The diagnosis about instrumentality would have surprised Davidson, who supplies a clear case of instrumental action two sentences after making the claim Ford disputes:
First, it will be said that some actions require that we do others in order to bring them off, and so cannot be primitive: for example, before I can hit the bull's eye, I must load and raise my gun, then aim and pull the trigger. Of course I do not deny that we must prepare the way for some actions by performing others. (Agency, 59)
I load the gun in order to later hit the bull's eye. It won't do to insist, against this, that really all I do is perform a variety of bodily movements among whose effects is the loading of the gun, unless we are also forestalled from saying that those bodily movements are done in order to later make it the case that my contracting of my finger causes a bullet, rather than nothing at all, to fly out of the barrel. As for the idea that the bodily movements presupposed by corporealism make no reference to the extra-corporeal, that too would have surprised Davidson, was worse off than being unable to describe or think how he moves his fingers when he ties his laces: "nor am I capable of moving my fingers in the appropriate way when no laces are present (this is a trick I might learn)" (Agency, 51—this comes immediately after a bit Ford quotes). It sure seems as if Davidson thinks that in order for him to be able perform this bodily movement, something extra-bodily has to be to hand. (So to speak.) It also has to be present to thought, because the practical thought Davidson gins up to solve the problem he thinks confronts him, if in fact it is supposed to be a practical thought, is to move his body however it moves to tie his shoelaces. (And why would I do that if not to tie my shoelaces?)
To be sure: "it would have surprised Davidson" doesn't mean the accusation is unjust. But I think it does mean that one ought to support the accusation, either directly or with a reference. What's worse is that Ford isn't really accusing Davidson alone of these things; it's supposed to be a common failing of all corporealists. But this is even harder to substantiate, for even if we believe that philosophers with a great diversity of backgrounds have all converged on something that can be thus characterized, that doesn't mean they've all converged on the same something, and making the charges stick in each case might require considering the details of the particular somethings in question. Or it might not: but Ford doesn't do much to convince us that the common position, if there is a single position, can in virtue solely of what is common be convicted of the charges.
 Perhaps this is just super obvious to those in the swim, on a level with not providing a citation for something about the virtues being a mean.
 Ford draws the obvious (given the author) general parallel, that rejecting practical dualism is like rejecting the thesis that all one perceives is sense data. O'Shaughnessy also brings perception into the mix (456–8) (he retains the sense datum, but holds that perceiving it is identical with perceiving the thing; that is, there's no inferential leap—odd position but not the concern here).
 If I remember correctly, Merleau-Ponty is willing to expand this to automobiles!
 I suspect that regarding causalists one actually can make something like this argument go, at least a little, but that requires making the argument specifically about causalists, which, again, is not Ford's ambition.
 Here's an ultra-pedantic quibble, but then, claims of necessity ought to be subject to pedantry:
If, as Anscombe claims, "the failure to execute intentions is necessarily the rare exception," then, since we normally use instruments to execute our intentions, our instruments must normally serve the purposes that we put them to.
#Actually, we can be more reliable in executing our intentions than our instruments are in serving our purposes. For a silly example, consider the esoteric programming language Java2k:
Because (almost) all builtin functions in Java2K have only a 90% chance of returning the correct result, actual results often deviate more-or-less from expected results. So, the real challenge is to develop techniques of getting a higher probability of correct results !
It is relatively easy to write a function that will return a one 90% of the time, but it is more difficult to write a function that has a 99.9999% chance of doing so, and even more difficult of doing this to a function that returns something as simple as the number two.
More difficult but not impossible. Or consider this task: given a biased coin that shows heads 2/3 of the time, flip it and get tails. The technique is simple: just keep doing it until you get tails.
But, if our instruments do normally serve our purposes, it's because nature … is … reliable?