Intentions and Motor Representations: the Interface Challenge

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 8 (2):317-336 (2017)
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Abstract

A full account of purposive action must appeal not only to propositional attitude states like beliefs, desires, and intentions, but also to motor representations, i.e., non-propositional states that are thought to represent, among other things, action outcomes as well as detailed kinematic features of bodily movements. This raises the puzzle of how it is that these two distinct types of state successfully coordinate. We examine this so-called “Interface Problem”. First, we clarify and expand on the nature and role of motor representations in explaining intentional action. Next, we characterize the respective functions of intentions and motor representations, the differences in representational format and content that these imply, and the interface challenge these differences in turn raise. We then evaluate Butterfill and Sinigaglia’s recent answer to this interface challenge, according to which intentions refer to action outcomes by way of demonstrative deference to motor representations. We present some worries for this proposal, arguing that, among other things, it implicitly presupposes a solution to the problem, and so cannot help to resolve it. Finally, we suggest that we may make some progress on this puzzle by positing a “content-preserving causal process” taking place between intentions and motor representations, and we offer a proposal for how this might work.

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Author Profiles

Myrto Mylopoulos
Carleton University
Elisabeth Pacherie
Institut Jean Nicod

Citations of this work

Skilled Action and the Double Life of Intention.Joshua Shepherd - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (2):286-305.
The psychological reality of practical representation.Carlotta Pavese - 2019 - Philosophical Psychology 32 (5):784-821.
Neural Representations Observed.Eric Thomson & Gualtiero Piccinini - 2018 - Minds and Machines 28 (1):191-235.

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References found in this work

The Predictive Mind.Jakob Hohwy - 2013 - Oxford University Press UK.
Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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