Intention and Motivational Strength

One of the principal preoccupations of action theory is with the role of intention in the production of action. It should be expected that this role would be important, since an item of behavior appears to count as action just when there is some respect in which it is intended by the agent. This being the case, an account of the function of intention should provide insight into how human action might differ from other sorts of events, what the foundations of human autonomy may be, etc. But the claim that intention plays an important role in action is implicitly opposed to another thesis held by many action theorists: that whenever she acts, an agent always follows her strongest motive or desire. If this is so, there may be no need for special states of intending, since these might just intervene between motive and action. Rather, it can be argued, intention conceived as an independent state should be gotten out of action theory, and its functional role imputed to the agent’s strongest desire. The tension between this reductivist view and views which credit intention with a distinctive functional role in the genesis of action is what I wish to explore in this paper. The first two sections are devoted to showing how the conflict arises. In sections III and IV I shall consider two ways of trying to resolve the conflict, neither of which seems to me adequate. Finally, I shall urge briefly that if the conflict cannot be resolved, we should favor a theory which maintains a nonreductive view of intention.
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DOI 10.5840/jpr_1995_19
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Jing Zhu (2005). Explaining Synchronic Self-Control. Southern Journal of Philosophy 43 (3):475-492.

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