The concept of trying

Philosophical Investigations 24 (3):213–227 (2001)
Abstract
It is widely held that whenever someone φs, that person tries to do φ. I examine arguments by B. O’Shaughnessy and J. Hornsby, and considerations by P. Grice in support of that thesis. I argue that none of them are convincing. The remainder of the paper defends an analysis of the concept of trying along the lines opposed by Grice et al. By speaking of someone’s trying to φ the speaker leaves the room for failure or the possibility of failure. This account of the function of the word ‘try’ makes it clear what is wrong with the claim that whenever someone φs, that person tries to do φ. For that claim amounts to saying that every action is either a failure or a possible failure – which clearly one can’t say of any action that one has already acknowledged to be successful. Furthermore, whether an action is possibly a failure depends on how much one knows about it. Hence the question whether in itself an action does or does not involve trying is as misguided as the question whether it’s intrinsically unexpected. It may be correct for some to describe it as ‘an attempt to φ’, but incorrect for others
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Christy Mag Uidhir (2010). Failed-Art and Failed Art-Theory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (3):381-400.
Christopher Mag Uidhir (2010). Failed-Art and Failed Art-Theory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (3):381-400.
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