The normativity of action

Philosophical Psychology 19 (3):401-416 (2006)
The concept of action is playing an increasingly prominent role in attempts to explain how subjects can represent the world. The idea is that at least some of the role traditionally assigned to internal representations can, in fact, be played by the ability of subjects to act on the world, and the exercise of that ability on appropriate occasions. This paper argues that the appeal to action faces a serious dilemma. If the concept of action employed is a representational one, then the appeal to action is circular: representation has been presupposed rather than explained. However, if the concept of action employed is a non-representational one, then the appeal to action will be inadequate: in particular, the appeal will fail to account for the normativity of representation. The way out of this dilemma is to develop a conception of action that is normative, but where this normativity is not inherited from the action's connection to distinct representational states. The normative status of such actions would be sui generis. This paper argues that such a conception of action is available
Keywords representation action normativity vehicle externalism myth of the giving proper function millikan
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DOI 10.1080/09515080600690599
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