Self-Ascription of Intention: Responsibility, Obligation and Self-Control

Synthese 159 (2):297 - 314 (2007)
Abstract
In the late preschool years children acquire a "theory of mind", the ability to ascribe intentional states, including beliefs, desires and intentions, to themselves and others. In this paper I trace how children's ability to ascribe intentions is derived from parental attempts to hold them responsible for their talk and action, that is, the attempt to have their behavior meet a normative standard or rule. Self-control is children's developing ability to take on or accept responsibility, that is, the ability to ascribe intentions to themselves. This is achieved, I argue, when they possess the ability to hold an utterance or rule in mind in the form of a quoted expression, and second, when they grasp the causal relation between the rule and their action. The account of how children learn to ascribe intention to themselves and others will then be used to explore the larger question of the relations amongst language, intentional states and the ascription and avowal of those states
Keywords Ascription  Avowal  Intention  Mental states  Obligations  Quotation  Responsibility  Rules  Speech acts  Self-control
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