Weber on Action

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Reason, Rationality, Sociology, Causality, Rational choice theory, Decision theory, Vocabulary, Social theories, Assumption of rationality, Social sciences

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Weber's writings on action and the explanation of action do not present a particularly coherent view. In his earlier writings, from 1903-1907, he is under the sway of a juristic conception of cause based on the probability doctrines of von Kries, and this is reflected in his writings on action, which de-emphasize problems of interpretation and stress the analytic uses of methods of causal analysis. In the Logos essay, problems of interpretation and problems of cause and probability are discussed on a par. In the "Introduction" to Economy and Society, problems of interpretation, in particular of the application of the ideal-type "rational action," become central. The terminology of the von Kriesian theory disappears, and the requirements for "causal adequacy" are minimized, as is the analytic role of causal reasoning. Weber's various arguments are intelligible solutions to standard problems in the philosophy of action with recent analogues, notably in the work of Donald Davidson. These solutions suggest an alternative account of the significance of "intelligibility" as an aim of sociological approaches to action.

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American Sociological Review, v. 48, issue 4, p. 506-519