Philosophy, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in The Journal of Value Inquiry 39 (2005), pp. 513–519; doi: 10.1007/s10790-007-9010-y


Copyright © 2007 Springer. Used by permission.


Gideon Yaffee’s Manifest Activity is an important contribution to both the studies of Thomas Reid’s views and action theory. Reid is known as an early advocate of an agent-causal view of free will; more recent advocates include Roderick Chisholm. Manifest Activity is a well-appreciated effort at bringing Reid’s particular version of agent-causalism and his arguments for it into the contemporary discussion. Manifest Activity should be of interest to Reid scholars, action theorists, and anyone who wants to explore a focused, critical analysis of a fascinating thinker.

Yaffee’s writing is clear and readable, yet rigorous and detailed. Yaffee’s aim in each chapter is clearly laid out, and the structure of each is clear. Some chapters start out with a reconstruction of one of Reid’s argument, and then Yaffee assesses each of the premises in turn. Other chapters begin with an interpretive puzzle, which Yaffee solves with resources from the Reid corpus. At times, the dialectic gets complex, but concise summaries that tie the arguments together are a welcome end of each chapter. Skipping the footnotes is not recommended, as they often contain significant reflections, extensions, or qualifications of points in the main text, if not important references to historical and contemporary texts.