Acting Intentionally and Acting for a Reason

Inquiry 52 (3):293-305 (2009)
This paper explores the question whether whatever is done intentionally is done for a reason. Apart from helping us to think about those concepts, the question is interesting because it affords an opportunity to identify a number of misconceptions about reasons. In the paper I argue that there are things that are done intentionally but not done for a reason. I examine two different kinds of example: things done “because one wants to” and “purely expressive actions”. Concerning the first, I argue that the tendency to think that things done because one wants to are things done for a reason derives from conflating the reason that explains why someone did something with their reason for doing it. While these sometimes coincide, they need not always do so. And although the fact that someone wanted to do something can contribute to explaining the person's action, it is not normally that person's reason for doing that thing. Purely expressive actions also provide examples of things done intentionally but not for a reason. I argue that, although those actions are spontaneous, they are nonetheless intentional and that, since they are mere expressions of emotions, they are not done for reasons - although there are reasons why we do them
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/00201740902917168
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Michael Smith (2004). Instrumental Desires, Instrumental Rationality. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 78 (1):93–109.

View all 7 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Donnchadh O.’Conaill (2014). The Space of Motivations. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 22 (3):440-455.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Cynthia Macdonald (2004). Self-Knowledge and the First Person. In M. Sie, Marc Slors & B. Van den Brink (eds.), Reasons of One's Own. Ashgate
Cynthia Macdonald (2004). Self-Knowledge and the First Person. In M. Sie, M. Slors & B. Van den Brink (eds.), Reasons of One's Own. Ashgate
Bill Brewer (1995). Mental Causation: Compulsion by Reason. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 69 (69):237-253.
Christine Korsgaard (2005). Acting for a Reason. Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 40.
Pamela Hieronymi (2011). Reasons for Action. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 111 (3pt3):407-427.
Joshua Knobe (2007). Acting Intentionally and Acting for a Reason. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 27 (1):119-122.
Robert Pippin (2010). Hegel's Social Theory of Agency : The 'Inner-Outer' Problem. In Arto Laitinen & Constantine Sandis (eds.), Hegel on Action. Palgrave Macmillan 3-50.
Ulrike Heuer (2010). Reasons and Impossibility. Philosophical Studies 147 (2):235 - 246.
John Hyman (2011). Acting for Reasons: Reply to Dancy. [REVIEW] Frontiers of Philosophy in China 6 (3):358-368.
Ulrike Heuer (2010). Wrongness and Reasons. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (2):137 - 152.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

143 ( #16,119 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

17 ( #45,081 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.