Acting and Understanding

Dissertation, University of St. Andrews (2016)
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Abstract

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 of a particular kind of disposition on the part of the acting subject. The third step is taken by arguing that the disposition in question must be of a kind which is exercised in conditions in which the acting subject thinks they are acting. From this vantage point the thesis develops many further commitments: That action is constitutively subject to a mode of explanation that mentions the kind of disposition just mentioned; that any case of acting requires a veridical representation of a means by which the action is performed; and that a problem about the underspecified nature of desire ascriptions can be solved by appeal to the conceptual materials made available by these investigations. The thesis finally develops several objections to the account it gives, both substantive and methodological, and explains why these objections ought to be rejected.

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Alexander Stathopoulos
University of St. Andrews (PhD)

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