About this topic
Summary What are the relationships between action and knowledge, between doing something and knowing what one is doing? What is special about the first-person perspective on one's actions, and about the way we know our actions as opposed to other things? Do we (always, or often, or normally) know our intentional actions "without observation", and if so then what does this mean, and how is it possible?
Key works Anscombe 1957, which introduces the concept of "non-observational knowledge" as a mark of intentional action, is the seminal text in the 20th-century Anglophone literature on this subject. For an important early criticism of Anscombe's argument, see Donnellan 1963. More recently, Anscombean positions have been explored by Falvey 2000, Gibbons 2010, Grünbaum 2009, Grünbaum 2011, Hursthouse 2000, Moran 2004, Paul 2009, Pickard 2004, Rödl 2007, Schwenkler 2011, Schwenkler 2012, Setiya 2008, Velleman 1989, and in many of the essays collected in Roessler & Eilan 2003 and Ford et al 2011.
Introductions For an opinionated survey of the recent literature on this topic, see Schwenkler 2012.
Related categories

46 found
  1. added 2019-01-15
    Practical Knowledge.Michael Schmitz - 2013 - Was Sollen Wir Glauben? Was Dürfen Wir Tun?, Sektionsbeiträge der GAP. 8.
    The contribution deals with knowledge of what to do, and how, where, when and why to do it, as it is found in a multitude of plans, rules, procedures, maxims, and other instructions. It is argued that while this knowledge is conceptual and propositional, it is still irreducible to theoretical knowledge of what is the case and why it is the case. It is knowledge of goals, of ends and means, rather than of facts. It is knowledge-to that is irreducibly (...)
  2. added 2019-01-15
    What Do People Think They're Doing? Action Identification and Human Behavior.Robin R. Vallacher & Daniel M. Wegner - 1987 - Psychological Review 94 (1):3-15.
  3. added 2018-10-09
    Conhecimento e ação na perspectiva de Hegel.Gabriel Rodrigues da Silva - manuscript
    I propose to present a relation between knowledge (Wissen) and human action (Handlung) from the perspective of the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). For this, I will use mainly of the Phenomenology of Spirit (Phenomenologie des Geistes) - published in 1807. According the philosopher himself, this work is a science of the experience of consciousness – this was the first name chosen by Hegel for this work (Vaz, 2014, p. 11-12). Throughout the work, it we can see that (...)
  4. added 2018-10-09
    Philosophy of Action From Suarez to Davidson.Constantine Sandis (ed.) - forthcoming
  5. added 2018-09-26
    Reconciling Practical Knowledge with Self-Deception.Eric Marcus - forthcoming - Mind:fzy061.
    Is it impossible for a person to do something intentionally without knowing that she is doing it? The phenomenon of self-deceived agency might seem to show otherwise. Here the agent is not (at least in a straightforward sense) lying, but yet disavows a correct description of her intentional action. This disavowal might seem expressive of ignorance. However, I show that the self-deceived agent does know what she’s doing. I argue that we should understand the factors that explain self-deception as masking (...)
  6. added 2018-03-07
    Practical Knowledge and the Structure of Action.Will Small - 2012 - In Günter Abel & James Conant (eds.), Rethinking Epistemology Volume 2. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. pp. 133-227.
    I argue that there is a cognition condition on intention and intentional action. If an agent is doing A intentionally, she has knowledge in intention that he is doing A. If an agent intends to do A, she has knowledge in intention that she is going to do A. In both cases, the agent has knowledge of eventual success, in this sense: she knows that it will be no accident if she ends up having done A. In both cases, the (...)
  7. added 2018-02-16
    Emotion, Practical Knowledge and Common Culture.Roger Scruton - 1980 - In A. O. Rorty (ed.), Explaining Emotions. Univ of California Pr. pp. 519--36.
  8. added 2017-09-26
    Action and Certainty.William Ernest Hocking - 1930 - Journal of Philosophy 27 (9):225-238.
  9. added 2017-09-04
    Self‐Knowledge and the Guise of the Good.Amir Saemi - 2017 - Analytic Philosophy 58 (3):272-281.
    According to the Doctrine of the Guise of the Good, actions are taken to be good by their agents. Kieran Setiya, however, has formulated a new objection to the DGG based on the distinction between the notions of normative reasons and motivating reasons. Only the latter, Setiya claims, is required for intentional agency. However, I will argue that Setiya’s objection fails because it rests on the implausible assumption that motivating reasons are determined solely in terms of the content of the (...)
  10. added 2017-08-25
    Acting and Understanding.Alexander Stathopoulos - 2016 - Dissertation, University of St. Andrews
    This thesis concerns the question of what it is for a subject to act. It answers this question in three steps. The first step is taken by arguing that any satisfactory answer must build on the idea that an action is something predicable of the acting subject. The second step is taken by arguing in support of an answer which does build on this idea, and does so by introducing the idea that acting is doing something which is an exercise (...)
  11. added 2017-07-25
    Motor Intentions and Non‐Observational Knowledge of Action: A Standard Story.Olle Blomberg & Chiara Brozzo - 2017 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 6 (3):137-146.
    According to the standard story given by reductive versions of the Causal Theory of Action, an action is an intrinsically mindless bodily movement that is appropriately caused by an intention. Those who embrace this story typically take this intention to have a coarse-grained content, specifying the action only down to the level of the agent's habits and skills. Markos Valaris argues that, because of this, the standard story cannot make sense of the deep reach of our non-observational knowledge of action. (...)
  12. added 2017-06-01
    Intentions, Intentional Actions and Practical Knowledge.Benedikt Kahmen - 2013 - In Markus Stepanians & Benedikt Kahmen (eds.), Critical Essays on "Causation and Responsibility". De Gruyter. pp. 253-270.
  13. added 2017-06-01
    Thought and Action.Errol Harris - 1958 - Review of Metaphysics 12 (3):449 - 461.
  14. added 2017-05-24
    Action, Knowledge, & Will.John Hyman - 2015 - Oxford University Press UK.
    Human agency has four irreducibly different dimensions -- psychological, ethical, intellectual, and physical -- which the traditional idea of a will tended to conflate. Twentieth-century philosophers criticized the idea that acts are caused by 'willing' or 'volition', but the study of human action continued to be governed by a tendency to equate these dimensions of agency, or to reduce one to another. Cutting across the branches of philosophy, from logic and epistemology to ethics and jurisprudence, Action, Knowledge, and Will defends (...)
  15. added 2017-05-23
    Seeing What I Am Doing.Thor Grünbaum - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86 (2):295-318.
    I argue against the view that an agent’s knowledge of her own current action cannot in any way rely on perception for its justification. Instead, I argue that when it comes to an agent’s knowledge of her own object-oriented intentional action, the agent’s belief about what she is doing is partly justified by her perception of the object of action. I proceed by first proposing an account of such actions according to which the agent’s knowledge is partly justified by her (...)
  16. added 2017-05-15
    Thought and Action.S. F. Barker & Stuart Hampshire - 1962 - Philosophical Review 71 (3):392.
  17. added 2017-01-30
    KK and the Knowledge Norm of Action.Michael Da Silva - 2014 - Logos and Episteme 5 (3):321-331.
    This piece examines the purported explanatory and normative role of knowledge in Timothy Williamson‘s account of intentional action and suggests that it isin tension with his argument against the luminosity of knowledge. Only iterable knowledge can serve as the norm for action capable of explaining both why people with knowledge act differently than those with mere beliefs and why only those who act on the basis of knowledge-desire pairs are responsible actors.
  18. added 2016-11-18
    Action Reconceptualized: Human Agency and its Sources.David K. Chan - 2016 - Lexington Books.
    In re-examining the concepts of desire, intention, and trying, David K. Chan brings a fresh approach toward resolving many of the problems that have occupied philosophers of action for almost a century. This book not only presents a complete theory of human agency but also, by developing the conceptual tools needed to do moral philosophy, lays the groundwork for formulating an ethics that is rooted in a clear, intuitive, and coherent moral psychology.
  19. added 2016-09-19
    Reasonable Foreseeability and Blameless Ignorance.Daniel J. Miller - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (6):1561-1581.
    This paper draws attention to a fundamental problem for a version of the tracing strategy defended by a number of theorists in the current literature :295–313, 2004; Fischer and Tognazzini in Noûs, 43:531–556, 2009). I argue that versions of the tracing strategy that require reasonable foreseeability are in tension with the view that blameless ignorance excuses. A stronger version of the tracing strategy is consistent with the view that blameless ignorance excuses and is therefore preferable for those tracing theorists who (...)
  20. added 2016-09-06
    Practical Knowledge: Selected Essays.Kieran Setiya - 2016 - Oxford University Press.
    In this collection, Kieran Setiya explores the place of agency in ethics, arguing for a causal theory of intentional action on which it is understood through the knowledge embodied in our intentions, and against the rationalist project of deriving norms of practical reason from the nature of the will.
  21. added 2016-09-02
    Handling Og den Praktiske Kunnskapens Metafysikk.Heine A. Holmen - 2016 - Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift:5-19.
  22. added 2016-09-02
    Action and the Problem of Evil.Heine A. Holmen - 2015 - International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 76 (4):335-351.
  23. added 2016-09-02
    Ethics and the Nature of Action.Heine A. Holmen - 2011 - Dissertation, University of Oslo
  24. added 2016-08-09
    The Agent's Knowledge of His Own Action.Richard D. Parry - 1974 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 55 (1):44.
  25. added 2016-08-09
    ANSCOMBE, G. E. M. -Intention. [REVIEW]K. W. Rankin - 1959 - Mind 68:261.
  26. added 2016-07-22
    Practical Knowledge Revisited.Kieran Setiya - 2009 - Ethics 120 (1):128-137.
    Argues that the view propounded in "Practical Knowledge" (Ethics 118: 388-409) survives objections made by Sarah Paul ("Intention, Belief, and Wishful Thinking," Ethics 119: 546-557). The response gives more explicit treatment to the nature and epistemology of knowing how.
  27. added 2016-07-20
    Interpreting Anscombe's Intention §32FF.Anne Newstead - 2009 - Journal of Philosophical Research 34:157-176.
    G. E. M. Anscombe’s view that agents know what they are doing “without observation” has been met with skepticism and the charge of confusion and falsehood. Simultaneously, some commentators think that Anscombe has captured an important truth about the first-personal character of an agent’s awareness of her actions. This paper attempts an explanation and vindication of Anscombe’s view. The key to the vindication lies in focusing on the role of practical knowledge in an agent’s knowledge of her actions. Few commentators, (...)
  28. added 2016-07-20
    Knowledge of One's Own Intentional Actions.Christopher Olsen - 1969 - Philosophical Quarterly 19 (77):324-336.
  29. added 2016-06-20
    Zum Verhältnis von Rezeptivem Und Praktischem Wissen.John McDowell - 2013 - Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 61 (3):387-401.
    According to G. E. M. Anscombe, practical knowledge, an agent’s knowledge of what she is intentionally doing, is not contemplative or speculative; it does not owe its being knowledge to its being derived from what it knows. She argues for this on the ground that practical knowledge can be one of “two knowledges of the same thing”, where the other of the two is speculative. If we try to conceive practical knowledge as speculative, we fall into a hopeless picture in (...)
  30. added 2016-06-06
    The Explanatory Role of Consciousness in Action.S. Maasen, W. Prinz & G. Roth - 2003 - In Sabine Maasen, Wolfgang Prinz & Gerhard Roth (eds.), Voluntary Action: Brains, Minds, and Sociality. Oxford University Press. pp. 188--201.
  31. added 2016-04-14
    Knowing Achievements.Alexander Stathopoulos - 2016 - Philosophy 91 (3):361-374.
    Anscombe claims that whenever a subject is doing something intentionally, this subject knows that they are doing it. This essay defends Anscombe's claim from an influential set of counterexamples, due to Davidson. It argues that Davidson's counterexamples are tacit appeals to an argument, on which knowledge can't be essential to doing something intentionally, because some things that can be done intentionally require knowledge of future successes, and because such knowledge can't ever be guaranteed when someone is doing something intentionally. The (...)
  32. added 2016-03-15
    Acts Owing to Ignorance.Laurence Houlgate - 1966 - Analysis 27 (1):17 - 22.
  33. added 2016-03-05
    Knowing How.Kieran Setiya - 2012 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 112 (3pt3):285-307.
    Argues from the possibility of basic intentional action to a non-propositional theory of knowing how. The argument supports a broadly Anscombean conception of the will as a capacity for practical knowledge.
  34. added 2015-12-01
    Excusing Crime.Jeremy Horder - 2004 - Oxford University Press.
    When should someone who may have intentionally or knowingly committed criminal wrongdoing be excused? Excusing Crime examines what excusing conditions are, and why familiar excuses, such as duress, are thought to fulfil those conditions. Setting himself against the 'classical' view of excuses, which has a long heritage, and is enshrined in different forms in many of the world's criminal codes, both liberal and non-liberal; Jeremy Horder argues that it is now time to move forwards. He contends that a wider range (...)
  35. added 2015-09-01
    Getting Inside the Acting Person.Steven J. Jensen - 2010 - International Philosophical Quarterly 50 (4):461-471.
    John Finnis claims that in order to judge actions we must approach them from the perspective of the acting person, so that the moral evaluation of actions appears to become private. This paper examines Elizabeth Anscombe’s claim that interior intentions can be discovered through exterior actions. Because deliberation is shaped by the causal features of the world, these causal structures can, when viewed from the outside, serve as a window into the private life of the mind. Therefore, we can usually (...)
  36. added 2015-09-01
    The Theory of the Organism-Environment System: III. Role of Efferent Influences on Receptors in the Formation of Knowledge.Timo Jarvilehto - 1999 - Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 34 (2):90-100.
    The present article is an attempt to give - in the frame of the theory of the organism - environment system - a new interpretation to the role of efferent influences on receptor activity and to the functions of senses in the formation of knowledge. It is argued, on the basis of experimental evidence and theoretical considerations, that the senses are not transmitters of environmental information, but they create a direct connection between the organism and the environment, which makes the (...)
  37. added 2015-08-04
    The Knowledge That a Man has of His Intentional Actions.Adrian Haddock - 2011 - In Anton Ford, Jennifer Hornsby & Frederick Stoutland (eds.), Essays on Anscombe's Intention. Harvard University Press.
  38. added 2015-02-26
    On Doing and Knowing.John Schwenkler - 2013 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 87:249-259.
    I propose that the knowledge of what one is intentionally doing counts as “non-observational” because of the role it plays in guiding the action itself. I then consider an objection: is it possible for the knowledge of one’s present action to contribute to the guidance of what one presently does? I argue that this is indeed possible, and that the failure to see how this is rests on questionable metaphysical assumptions about the nature of causality.
  39. added 2015-02-26
    Objectivity, Agency and Self-Knowledge.Bill Brewer - 1989 - Dissertation, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
    Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;There is a traditional conception of perception as the passive reception of information about the external world. This thesis pursues one line of development of an alternative view. The suggestion will be that fleeting subjective perceptual experience attains its status as genuinely representational of how things independently are in an objective world partly in virtue of its role as input into a system of practical thought and intentional interaction. (...)
  40. added 2014-11-19
    Anscombe on Practical Knowledge.Kieran Setiya - 2016 - In Practical Knowledge: Selected Essays. Oxford University Press.
    Argues that, for Anscombe, 'practical knowledge' is only sometimes 'the cause of what it understands.' It is the formal cause when its object is 'formally the description of an executed intention.' Nor is such knowledge confined to the present progressive: we have practical knowledge of the future and the past.
  41. added 2014-11-19
    Understanding 'Practical Knowledge'.John Schwenkler - 2015 - Philosophers' Imprint 15.
    The concept of practical knowledge is central to G.E.M. Anscombe's argument in Intention, yet its meaning is little understood. There are several reasons for this, including a lack of attention to Anscombe's ancient and medieval sources for the concept, and an emphasis on the more straightforward concept of knowledge "without observation" in the interpretation of Anscombe's position. This paper remedies the situation, first by appealing to the writings of Thomas Aquinas to develop an account of practical knowledge as a distinctive (...)
  42. added 2013-11-18
    The Phenomenology of Movement: Action, Proprioception, and Embodied Knowledge.Wendy S. Scholz - unknown
    The intent of this thesis is to provide an account of the phenomenology of movement that collapses the distinction between mental and physical without the elimination of the mental. There are two main ways in which mental and physical converge in this account. First of all, the type of knowledge involved in learning movement skills is a type of nonpropositional knowledge that is literally embodied in the neuromuscular system of the body. Thus the mental phenomena of knowing-how and thinking how (...)
  43. added 2013-09-09
    Knowledge in Action.Eylem Ozaltun - unknown
    It is widely acknowledged that an agent is doing A intentionally only if she knows she is doing A. It has proved difficult, however, to reconcile two natural thoughts about this knowledge. On the one hand, the agent seems to know what she is doing immediately, simply by doing it. Her knowledge seems to rely upon no evidence, and indeed to rest upon no specifiable epistemic basis at all. On the other hand, the agent can be wrong about what she (...)
  44. added 2012-05-03
    Practical Knowledge and Foreseen Side Effects.Niels van Miltenburg - 2011 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (1):1-7.
    On Anscombe's view, intentional actions are characterized by a specific type of knowledge (practical knowledge) possessed by the agents that perform them. Recently, interest in Anscombean action theory has been renewed. Sarah Paul argues that Anscombean action theory faces a serious problem: It fails to discriminate between an action’s intended aim or purpose and its foreseen side effects. Since Anscombeans conceive practical knowledge as the formal cause of intentional actions, Paul dubs this a problem of “deviant formal causation.” In this (...)
  45. added 2011-04-20
    Knowing and Doing.Niels van Miltenburg - manuscript
  46. added 2011-03-13
    The Intimate Connexion: Bodily Awareness and Bodily Agency.H. Y. Wong - unknown
    This thesis examines the relation between bodily awareness and bodily agency. Descartes‘s observation that we are not in our bodies as pilots in vessels suggests two thoughts about the special role of the body in experience and agency. The first is that we experience our bodies ‗from the inside‘ and not just as one more material body amongst other material objects of perception. The second is that we are able to act with our bodies in ways in which we are (...)