Practical Knowledge and the Structure of Action

In Günter Abel & James Conant (eds.), Rethinking Epistemology, Volume 2. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. pp. 133-227 (2012)
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Abstract

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 agent’s knowledge is of what is happening, or what is going to happen, in the world; it is not knowledge merely of her state of mind. This knowledge is practical: it the cause of what it understands; without it what is happening, or what is going to happen, is not an intentional action, and any practical thought of the agent’s about what is happening, or what is going to happen, does not hit the heights of intention. I demonstrate that famous examples (from Davidson and Bratman) purporting to show that the cognition condition should be rejected (or its content or scope weakened) are ineffective, because they trade on confusions about the different kinds of failure to which intentional action may be susceptible, confusions remedied via reflection on the structure of intentional action. I show that the cognition condition is grounded not in reflection about the directions of fit and guidance of different kinds of mental states, nor in the indicative content of linguistic expressions of intention, but in the calculative and temporal structure of intentional action itself.

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Author's Profile

Will Small
University of Illinois, Chicago

Citations of this work

Basic Action and Practical Knowledge.Will Small - 2019 - Philosophers' Imprint 19.
Ryle on the Explanatory Role of Knowledge How.Will Small - 2017 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 5 (5).
Modeling practical thinking.Matthew Mosdell - 2018 - Mind and Language 34 (4):445-464.

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