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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. 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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  3. 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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  4. Laurence Houlgate (1966). Acts Owing to Ignorance. Analysis 27 (1):17 - 22.
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  5. 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 (...), but they create a direct connection between the organism and the environment, which makes the development of a dynamic living system, the organism - environment system, possible. In this connection process the efferent influences on receptor activity are of particular significance, because with their help the receptors may be adjusted in relation to the parts of the environment which are most important in the achievement of behavioral results. Perception is the process of joining of new parts of the environment to the organism - environment system ; thus, the formation of knowledge by perception is based on reorganization of the organism - environment system, and not on transmission of information from the environment. With the help of the efferent influences on receptors each organism creates its own peculiar world which is simultaneously subjective and objective. The present considerations have far reaching influences as well on experimental work in neurophysiology and psychology of perception as on philosophical considerations of knowledge formation. (shrink)
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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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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  11. 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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  12. 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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  13. Alexander Stathopoulos (forthcoming). Knowing Achievements. Philosophy:1-14.
    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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  14. Niels van Miltenburg, Knowing and Doing.
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  15. 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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  16. 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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