Intention and the authority of avowals

Philosophical Explorations 11 (1):23 – 37 (2008)
Abstract
There is a common assumption that intention is a complex behavioural disposition, or a motivational state underlying such a disposition. Associated with this position is the apparently commonsense view that an avowal of intention is a direct report of an inner motivational state, and indirectly an expression of a belief that it is likely that one will A. A central claim of this article is that the dispositional or motivational model is mistaken since it cannot acknowledge either the future-direction of intention or the authority of avowals of intention. I argue that avowals of intention - first-person, present-tense ascriptions - express direct knowledge of a future action, knowledge that is not based on examination of one's present introspectible states or dispositions. Such avowals concern a future action, not a present state or disposition; just as self-ascriptions of belief concern the outer not the inner, so self-ascriptions of intention concern the future outer, not the present inner. One way of capturing this future-direction is to say that avowals of intention - and perhaps sense intentions themselves - are a kind of prediction, and not a description of one's present state of mind. This position is suggested by Anscombe in her monograph Intention (1963), and treats avowals of intention as judgements about the future, which unlike ordinary predictions are not based on evidence. However, since talk of prediction everywhere suggests an evidence-based stance - that meaningful hypothesis about the likely occurrence of events is being proposed, an hypothesis that can be falsified by evidence - the description future-outer thesis is preferred. I defend this thesis against various objections, arguing that it complements Anscombe's characterisation of intentions as based on reasons.
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