The Priority of Intentional Action: From Developmental to Conceptual Priority

The Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Philosophical orthodoxy has it that intentional action consists in one’s intention appropriately causing a motion of one’s body, placing the latter as (conceptually and/or metaphysically) prior to the former. Here I argue that this standard schema should be reversed: acting intentionally is at least conceptually prior to intending. The argument is modelled on a Williamsonian argument for the priority of knowledge developed by Jenifer Nagel. She argues that children acquire the concept KNOWS before they acquire BELIEVES, building on this alleged developmental priority of knowledge to establish its conceptual priority. I start by taking a closer look at Nagel’s argument, canvassing extant objections to do both with the empirical adequacy of her claims and their philosophical implications. Doing so allows me in the second part of the paper to draw lessons that inform the construction of a revamped parallel argument for the priority of ACTS INTENTIONALLY.

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Yair Levy
Tel Aviv University

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References found in this work

Intention, plans, and practical reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
The origin of concepts.Susan Carey - 2009 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2003 - Philosophical Quarterly 53 (210):105-116.

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