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Summary What are the relationships between action and knowledge, between doing something and knowing what one is doing? What is special about the first-person perspective on one's actions, and about the way we know our actions as opposed to other things? Do we (always, or often, or normally) know our intentional actions "without observation", and if so then what does this mean, and how is it possible?
Key works Anscombe 1957, which introduces the concept of "non-observational knowledge" as a mark of intentional action, is the seminal text in the 20th-century Anglophone literature on this subject. For an important early criticism of Anscombe's argument, see Donnellan 1963. More recently, Anscombean positions have been explored by Falvey 2000, Gibbons 2010, Grunbaum 2009, Grünbaum 2011, Hursthouse 2000, Moran 2004, Paul 2009, Pickard 2004, Rödl 2007, Schwenkler 2011, Schwenkler 2012, Setiya 2008, Velleman 1989, and in many of the essays collected in Roessler & Eilan 2003 and Ford et al 2011.
Introductions For an opinionated survey of the recent literature on this topic, see Schwenkler 2012.
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  1. Bill Brewer (1989). Objectivity, Agency and Self-Knowledge. Dissertation, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
    Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;There is a traditional conception of perception as the passive reception of information about the external world. This thesis pursues one line of development of an alternative view. The suggestion will be that fleeting subjective perceptual experience attains its status as genuinely representational of how things independently are in an objective world partly in virtue of its role as input into a system of practical thought and intentional interaction. (...)
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  2. John Schwenkler (forthcoming). Understanding 'Practical Knowledge'. Philosophers' Imprint.
    The concept of practical knowledge is central to G.E.M. Anscombe's argument in Intention, yet its meaning is little understood. There are several reasons for this, including a lack of attention to Anscombe's ancient and medieval sources for the concept, and an emphasis on the (supposedly) more straightforward concept of knowledge "without observation" in the interpretation of Anscombe's position. This paper remedies the situation, first by appealing to the writings of Thomas Aquinas to develop an account of practical knowledge as a (...)
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  3. John Schwenkler (2013). On Doing and Knowing. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 87:249-259.
    I propose that the knowledge of what one is intentionally doing counts as “non-observational” because of the role it plays in guiding the action itself. I then consider an objection: is it possible for the knowledge of one’s present action to contribute to the guidance of what one presently does? I argue that this is indeed possible, and that the failure to see how this is rests on questionable metaphysical assumptions about the nature of causality.
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  4. Kieran Setiya, Anscombe on Practical Knowledge.
    Argues that, for Anscombe, 'practical knowledge' is only sometimes 'the cause of what it understands.' It is the formal cause when its object is 'formally the description of an executed intention.' Nor is such knowledge confined to the present progressive: we have practical knowledge of the future and the past.
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