The concept of a human action

Inquiry 13 (1-4):1 – 31 (1970)
Abstract
This analysis of the concept of a human action takes its point of departure in the fact that actions are things done by persons. But people do many things which do not qualify as actions. A necessary condition for calling something done an action, is that the agent intends or means something by it, in the sense that the agent has some specific end in mind. Thus an action may be said to be the externalization, realization, or expression of the agent's meaning. But what precisely are such meanings or intentions that are given expression in actions? How are they to be distinguished from other mental contents ? The author tries to answer these questions by distinguishing them, on the one hand, from experiences, sensations, feelings, and, on the other hand, from other thoughts and meanings that do not find expression in the action. It is claimed that this account of action explains many characteristics of actions: that actions are appraised, not described (because meanings are evaluated), that an action is regarded as a unity (because the meaning is a unity), that the intention and the performance are not causally related, but related as are the content and expression of linguistic utterances, etc.
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