It is roughly accurate to characterize the enterprise of science as explaining how one billiard ball strikes another and how that one ricochets into another, and so on. But when this approach is applied to people, it can fall short, because people are goal-oriented. For example, the philosopher John Searle noted that "If you describe a car and leave out driving, you've left out something important." He went on to say, "Cars are for driving; dollars for earning, spending, and saving; bathtubs for taking a bath."
Our goal orientation is part of the causal process:
- Why are you applying to medical school?
- Because I want to become a doctor.
- And why is that?
- Because I want to help people.
The goal motivates the causal process.
Another example is found in Searle's book Intentionality:
"Consider what it is like to learn how to ski. The beginning skier is given a set of verbal instructions as to what he is supposed to do: "lean forward," "bend the ankles," "keep weight on the downhill ski," etc. Each of these is an explicit representation, and, to the extent the skier is seriously trying to learn, each will function causally as part of the Intentional content determin¬ing the behavior. The skier tries to keep the weight on the downhill ski by way of obeying the instructions to keep weight on the downhill ski. Here we have a perfectly standard case of Intentional causation."