Narrative and the Stability of Intention

This paper addresses a problem concerning the rational stability of intention. When you form an intention to ϕ at some future time t, you thereby make it subjectively rational for you to follow through and ϕ at t, even if – hypothetically – you would abandon the intention were you to redeliberate at t. It is hard to understand how this is possible. Shouldn’t the perspective of your acting self be what determines what is then subjectively rational for you? I aim to solve this problem by highlighting a role for narrative in intention. I’ll argue that committing yourself to a course of action by intending to pursue it crucially involves the expectation that your acting self will be ‘swept along’ by its participation in a distinctively narrative form of self-understanding. I’ll motivate my approach by criticizing Richard Holton’s recent treatment of the stability of intention. Then I’ll extend the criticism to Michael Bratman’s treatment, though my account also borrows from his work. I’ll likewise criticize and borrow from David Velleman’s work on narrative and self-intelligibility. When the pieces fall into place, we’ll see how intending is akin to telling your future self a kind of story. My thesis is not that you address your acting self but that your acting self figures as a ‘character’ in the ‘story’ that you address to a still later self. Unlike other appeals to narrative in agency, mine will explain how as narrator you address a specifically intrapersonal audience.
Keywords Intention  Narrative  Diachronic agency
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    Joe Mintoff (1996). On a Problem for Contractarianism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (1):98 – 116.
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