Executions, motivations, and accomplishments

Philosophical Review 102 (4):515-540 (1993)
Brutus wanted to kill Caesar. He believed that Caesar was an ordinary mortal, and that, given this, stabbing him (by which we mean plunging a knife into his heart) was a way of killing him. He thought that he could stab Caesar, for he remembered that he had a knife and saw that Caesar was standing next to him on his left, in the Forum. So Brutus was motivated to stab the man to his left. He did so, thereby killing Caesar. We have explained Brutus’s act by citing a complex of beliefs, desires and perceptions that motivated it. Our explanation provides a causal account of Brutus’s act. The beliefs, desires and perceptions in such a motivating complex are particular cognitions. The act was also a particular, an event that occurred at a certain place and time. The cognitions caused the act.1 Our explanation also provides a rationale for Brutus’s act. The beliefs, desires and perceptions of Brutus’s that we cite had contents. The desire we cited had the content that Brutus kill Caesar. The first belief we cited had the content that Caesar was an ordinary mortal. The act was of a certain type. The explanation provides a rationale because the contents of the cognitions mesh in a certain way with one another and with the type of the act. It was the type of act that would satisfy Brutus’s desire to kill 1 Caesar, if the beliefs we cited were true. If the person next to him is Caesar, and Caesar is mortal, and stabbing is a way of killing the mortal next to one, then an act of that type will satisfy Brutus’s desire. The beliefs in the motivating complex “close the gap” between the type of act motivated and the motivating desire
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DOI 10.2307/2185682
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Bence Nanay (2012). Action-Oriented Perception. European Journal of Philosophy 20 (3):430-446.
Bence Nanay (2013). Success Semantics: The Sequel. Philosophical Studies 165 (1):151-165.

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