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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. David K. Chan (2016). Action Reconceptualized: Human Agency and its Sources. Lexington Books.
    In re-examining the concepts of desire, intention, and trying, David K. Chan brings a fresh approach toward resolving many of the problems that have occupied philosophers of action for almost a century. This book not only presents a complete theory of human agency but also, by developing the conceptual tools needed to do moral philosophy, lays the groundwork for formulating an ethics that is rooted in a clear, intuitive, and coherent moral psychology.
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  3. Adrian Haddock (2011). The Knowledge That a Man has of His Intentional Actions. In Anton Ford, Jennifer Hornsby & Frederick Stoutland (eds.), Essays on Anscombe's Intention. Harvard University Press
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  4. Heine A. Holmen (2016). Handling Og den Praktiske Kunnskapens Metafysikk. Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift:5-19.
  5. Heine A. Holmen (2015). Action and the Problem of Evil. International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 76 (4):335-351.
  6. Heine A. Holmen (2011). Ethics and the Nature of Action. Dissertation, University of Oslo
  7. Jeremy Horder (2004). Excusing Crime. OUP Oxford.
    When should someone who may have intentionally or knowingly committed criminal wrongdoing be excused? Excusing Crime examines what excusing conditions are, and why familiar excuses, such as duress, are thought to fulfil those conditions. Setting himself against the 'classical' view of excuses, which has a long heritage, and is enshrined in different forms in many of the world's criminal codes, both liberal and non-liberal; Jeremy Horder argues that it is now time to move forwards. He contends that a wider range (...)
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  8. Laurence Houlgate (1966). Acts Owing to Ignorance. Analysis 27 (1):17 - 22.
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  9. Timo Jarvilehto (1999). The Theory of the Organism-Environment System: III. Role of Efferent Influences on Receptors in the Formation of Knowledge. Philosophical Explorations 34:90-100.
    The present article is an attempt to give - in the frame of the theory of the organism - environment system - a new interpretation to the role of efferent influences on receptor activity and to the functions of senses in the formation of knowledge. It is argued, on the basis of experimental evidence and theoretical considerations, that the senses are not transmitters of environmental information, but they create a direct connection between the organism and the environment, which makes the (...)
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  10. Steven J. Jensen (2010). Getting Inside the Acting Person. International Philosophical Quarterly 50 (4):461-471.
    John Finnis claims that in order to judge actions we must approach them from the perspective of the acting person, so that the moral evaluation of actions appears to become private. This paper examines Elizabeth Anscombe’s claim that interior intentions can be discovered through exterior actions. Because deliberation is shaped by the causal features of the world, these causal structures can, when viewed from the outside, serve as a window into the private life of the mind. Therefore, we can usually (...)
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  11. S. Maasen, W. Prinz & G. Roth (2003). The Explanatory Role of Consciousness in Action. In Sabine Maasen, Wolfgang Prinz & Gerhard Roth (eds.), Voluntary Action: Brains, Minds, and Sociality. Oxford University Press 188--201.
  12. John Mcdowell (2013). Zum Verhältnis von Rezeptivem Und Praktischem Wissen. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 61 (3):387-401.
    According to G. E. M. Anscombe, practical knowledge, an agent’s knowledge of what she is intentionally doing, is not contemplative or speculative; it does not owe its being knowledge to its being derived from what it knows. She argues for this on the ground that practical knowledge can be one of “two knowledges of the same thing”, where the other of the two is speculative. If we try to conceive practical knowledge as speculative, we fall into a hopeless picture in (...)
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  13. Daniel J. Miller (forthcoming). Reasonable Foreseeability and Blameless Ignorance. Philosophical Studies:1-21.
    This paper draws attention to a fundamental problem for a version of the tracing strategy defended by a number of theorists in the current literature :295–313, 2004; Fischer and Tognazzini in Noûs, 43:531–556, 2009). I argue that versions of the tracing strategy that require reasonable foreseeability are in tension with the view that blameless ignorance excuses. A stronger version of the tracing strategy is consistent with the view that blameless ignorance excuses and is therefore preferable for those tracing theorists who (...)
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  14. Anne Newstead (2009). Interpreting Anscombe's Intention §32FF. Journal of Philosophical Research 34:157-176.
    G. E. M. Anscombe’s view that agents know what they are doing “without observation” has been met with skepticism and the charge of confusion and falsehood. Simultaneously, some commentators think that Anscombe has captured an important truth about the first-personal character of an agent’s awareness of her actions. This paper attempts an explanation and vindication of Anscombe’s view. The key to the vindication lies in focusing on the role of practical knowledge in an agent’s knowledge of her actions. Few commentators, (...)
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  15. Christopher Olsen (1969). Knowledge of One's Own Intentional Actions. Philosophical Quarterly 19 (77):324-336.
  16. Eylem Ozaltun, Knowledge in Action.
    It is widely acknowledged that an agent is doing A intentionally only if she knows she is doing A. It has proved difficult, however, to reconcile two natural thoughts about this knowledge. On the one hand, the agent seems to know what she is doing immediately, simply by doing it. Her knowledge seems to rely upon no evidence, and indeed to rest upon no specifiable epistemic basis at all. On the other hand, the agent can be wrong about what she (...)
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  17. Richard D. Parry (1974). The Agent's Knowledge of His Own Action. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 55 (1):44.
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  18. K. W. Rankin (1959). ANSCOMBE, G. E. M. -Intention. [REVIEW] Mind 68:261.
  19. Wendy S. Scholz, The Phenomenology of Movement: Action, Proprioception, and Embodied Knowledge.
    The intent of this thesis is to provide an account of the phenomenology of movement that collapses the distinction between mental and physical without the elimination of the mental. There are two main ways in which mental and physical converge in this account. First of all, the type of knowledge involved in learning movement skills is a type of nonpropositional knowledge that is literally embodied in the neuromuscular system of the body. Thus the mental phenomena of knowing-how and thinking how (...)
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  20. John Schwenkler (2015). Understanding 'Practical Knowledge'. Philosophers' Imprint 15 (15).
    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 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 distinctive (...)
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  21. 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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  22. Kieran Setiya (2016). Practical Knowledge: Selected Essays. Oxford University Press.
    In this collection, Kieran Setiya explores the place of agency in ethics, arguing for a causal theory of intentional action on which it is understood through the knowledge embodied in our intentions, and against the rationalist project of deriving norms of practical reason from the nature of the will.
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  23. Kieran Setiya (2016). Anscombe on Practical Knowledge. In Practical Knowledge: Selected Essays. Oxford University Press
    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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  24. Kieran Setiya (2012). Knowing How. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 112 (3):285-307.
    Argues from the possibility of basic intentional action to a non-propositional theory of knowing how. The argument supports a broadly Anscombean conception of the will as a capacity for practical knowledge.
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  25. Kieran Setiya (2009). Practical Knowledge Revisited. Ethics 120 (1):128-137.
    Argues that the view propounded in "Practical Knowledge" (Ethics 118: 388-409) survives objections made by Sarah Paul ("Intention, Belief, and Wishful Thinking," Ethics 119: 546-557). The response gives more explicit treatment to the nature and epistemology of knowing how.
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  26. Alexander Stathopoulos (2016). Knowing Achievements. Philosophy 91 (3):361-374.
    Anscombe claims that whenever a subject is doing something intentionally, this subject knows that they are doing it. This essay defends Anscombe's claim from an influential set of counterexamples, due to Davidson. It argues that Davidson's counterexamples are tacit appeals to an argument, on which knowledge can't be essential to doing something intentionally, because some things that can be done intentionally require knowledge of future successes, and because such knowledge can't ever be guaranteed when someone is doing something intentionally. The (...)
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  27. Niels van Miltenburg, Knowing and Doing.
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  28. Niels van Miltenburg (2012). Practical Knowledge and Foreseen Side Effects. Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.
    On Anscombe's view, intentional actions are characterized by a specific type of knowledge (practical knowledge) possessed by the agents that perform them. Recently, interest in Anscombean action theory has been renewed. Sarah Paul argues that Anscombean action theory faces a serious problem: It fails to discriminate between an action’s intended aim or purpose and its foreseen side effects. Since Anscombeans conceive practical knowledge as the formal cause of intentional actions, Paul dubs this a problem of “deviant formal causation.” In this (...)
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  29. H. Y. Wong, The Intimate Connexion: Bodily Awareness and Bodily Agency.
    This thesis examines the relation between bodily awareness and bodily agency. Descartes‘s observation that we are not in our bodies as pilots in vessels suggests two thoughts about the special role of the body in experience and agency. The first is that we experience our bodies ‗from the inside‘ and not just as one more material body amongst other material objects of perception. The second is that we are able to act with our bodies in ways in which we are (...)
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