The paper motivates a novel research programme in the philosophy of action parallel to the ‘Knowledge First’ programme in epistemology. It is argued that much of the grounds for abandoning the quest for a reductive analysis of knowledge in favour of the Knowledge First alternative is mirrored in the case of intentionalaction, inviting the hypothesis that intentionalaction is also, like knowledge, metaphysically basic. The paper goes on to demonstrate the sort of explanatory contribution (...) that intentionalaction can make once it is no longer taken to be a target for reductive analysis, in explaining other, non-intentional kinds of action and voluntariness. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to show that there are actions which are non-intentional. An account is first given which links intentional and unintentional action to acting for a reason, or appropriate causation by an intention. Mannerisms and habitual actions are then presented as examples of behavior which are actions, but which are not done in the course of acting for a reason. This account has advantages over that of Hursthouse's "arational actions," which are allegedly (...) class='Hi'>intentional actions done for no reason at all. Finally, one consequence of neglecting non-intentionalaction is discussed to illustrate its importance. (shrink)
This short paper, forthcoming as part of a symposium on experimental philosophy to appear in the popular publication, The Philosophers’ Magazine (including contributions by Papineau, Stich, Machery, Sommers, and Knobe), offers an accessible summary of seven years of experimental-philosophical research into intentionalaction attributions.
This paper argues, by attention to the category of sub-intentional agency, that many conceptions of the nature of agency are 'over-mentalised', in that they insist that an action proper must be produced by something like an intention or a reason or a desire. Sub-intentional actions provide counterexamples to such conceptions. Instead, it is argued, we should turn to the concept of a two-way power in order to home in on the essential characteristics of actions.
In opposition to the tenet of contemporary action theory that an intentionalaction must be done for a reason, I argue that some intentional actions are unmotivated. I provide examples of arbitrary and habitual actions that are done for no reason at all. I consider and rebut an objection to the examples of unmotivated habitual action. I explain how my contention differs from recent challenges to the tenet by Hursthouse, Stocker and Pollard.
Intentionalaction is, in some sense, non-accidental, and one common way action theorists have attempted to explain this is with reference to control. The idea, in short, is that intentionalaction implicates control, and control precludes accidentality. But in virtue of what, exactly, would exercising control over an action suffice to make it non-accidental in whatever sense is required for the action to be intentional? One interesting and prima facie plausible idea that (...) we wish to explore in this paper is that control is non-accidental in virtue of requiring knowledge – either knowledge-that or knowledge-how (e.g., Beddor and Pavese 2021; cf., Setiya 2008; 2012 and Habgood-Coote 2018). We review in detail some key recent work defending such knowledge-centric theories of control, and we show that none of these accounts holds water. We conclude with some discussion about how control opposes the sort of luck intentionalaction excludes without doing so by requiring knowledge (that- or how). (shrink)
It is reasonably well accepted that the explanation of intentionalaction is teleological explanation. Very roughly, an explanation of some event, E, is teleological only if it explains E by citing some goal or purpose or reason that produced E. Alternatively, teleological explanations of intentionalaction explain “by citing the state of affairs toward which the behavior was directed” thereby answering questions like “To what end was the agent’s behavior directed?” Causalism—advocated by causalists—is the thesis that (...) explanations of intentionalaction are both causal and teleological. By contrast, non-causalism—advocated by non-causalists—is the thesis that explanations of intentionalaction are teleological but not causal. Familiarly, the problem of causal deviance plagues causalism. But while some have supposed that the problem is grave enough that causalism is bound to suffer a global breakdown, the rumors of causalism’s demise are greatly exaggerated. In what follows, I note that every instance of causal deviance is also an instance of teleological deviance and that teleological deviance is a problem for causalist and non-causalist alike, a problem that causalists may be better able to deal with. Or so I argue. (shrink)
What are the criteria people use when they judge that other people did something intentionally? This question has motivated a large and growing literature both in philosophy and in psychology. It has become a topic of particular concern to the nascent field of experimental philosophy, which uses empirical techniques to understand folk concepts. We present new data that hint at some of the underly- ing psychological complexities of folk ascriptions of intentionalaction and at dis- tinctions both between (...) diverse concepts and between associated mechanisms. (shrink)
Elizabeth Anscombe held that acting intentionally entails knowing (in a distinctively practical way) what one is doing. The consensus for many years was that this knowledge thesis faces decisive counterexamples, the most famous being Donald Davidson's carbon copier case, and so should be rejected or at least significantly weakened. Recently, however, a new defense of the knowledge thesis has emerged: provided one understands the knowledge in question as a form of progressive judgement, cases like Davidson's pose no threat. In this (...) paper, I argue that this neo-Anscombean maneuver fails because it is founded on an untenable conception of the difference between intentional and merely lucky success. More specifically, the neo-Anscombean view conflates merely lucky success with subjectively surprising success. Unlike the former, subjectively surprising success may well be intentional, for it may well be the result of an exercise of knowledge-how. After sketching an alternative view that better captures the intuitive contrast between lucky and intentional success, I argue that the conflation of surprising and merely lucky success owes to a tacit commitment to the thesis that knowing how entails knowing that one knows how. This thesis is not only false, but distortive of the explanatory role of knowledge-how. This result, in turn, tells us something important about what practical knowledge cannot be. (shrink)
Based on a puzzling pattern in our judgements about intentionalaction, Knobe [. “IntentionalAction and Side-Effects in Ordinary Language.” Analysis 63: 190–194] has claimed that these judgements are shaped by our moral judgements and evaluations. However, this claim goes directly against a key conceptual intuition about intentionalaction – the “frame-of-mind condition”, according to which judgements about intentionalaction are about the agent’s frame-of-mind and not about the moral value of his (...)action. To preserve this intuition Hindriks [. “IntentionalAction and the Praise-Blame Asymmetry.” The Philosophical Quarterly 58: 630–641;. “Normativity in Action: How to Explain the Knobe Effect and its Relatives.” Mind & Language 29: 51–72] has proposed an alternate account of the Knobe Effect. According to his “Normative Reason account of IntentionalAction”, a side-effect counts as intentional only when the agent thought it constituted a normative reason not to act but did not care. In... (shrink)
The ‘Knobe effect’ is the name given to the empirical finding that judgments about whether an action is intentional or not seems to depend on the moral valence of this action. To account for this phenomenon, Scaife and Webber have recently advanced the ‘Consideration Hypothesis’, according to which people’s ascriptions of intentionality are driven by whether they think the agent took the outcome in consideration when taking his decision. In this paper, I examine Scaife and Webber’s hypothesis (...) and conclude that it is supported neither by the existing literature nor by their own experiments, whose results I did not replicate, and that the ‘Consideration Hypothesis’ is not the best available account of the ‘Knobe Effect’. (shrink)
This paper examines an hypothesis put forward by Pettit and Knobe 2009 to account for the Knobe effect. According to Pettit and Knobe, one should look at the semantics of the adjective “intentional” on a par with that of other gradable adjectives such as “warm”, “rich” or “expensive”. What Pettit and Knobe’s analogy suggests is that the Knobe effect might be an instance of a much broader phenomenon which concerns the context-dependence of normative standards relevant for the application of (...) gradable expressions. I adduce further evidence in favor of this view and go on to examine the predictions one obtains when assuming that “intentional” involves a two-dimensional scale, which implies evaluating how much an action or outcome is desired on the one hand, and how much it can be foreseen as a consequence of one’s actions on the other. (shrink)
Intentionalaction involves both a series of neural events in the motor areas of the brain, and also a distinctive conscious experience that ''I'' am the author of the action. This paper investigates some possible ways in which these neural and phenomenal events may be related. Recent models of motor prediction are relevant to the conscious experience of action as well as to its neural control. Such models depend critically on matching the actual consequences of a (...) movement against its internally predicted effects. However, it remains unclear whether our conscious experience of action depends on a precise matching process, or a retrospective inference that ''I'' must have been responsible for a particular event. We report an experiment in which normal subjects judged the perceived time of either intentional actions, involuntary movements, or subsequent effects (auditory tones) of these. We found that the subject's intention to produce the auditory tone produced an intentional binding between the perceived times of the subject's action and the tone. However, if the intention was interrupted by an imposed involuntary movement, followed by the identical tone, no such binding occurred. The phenomenology of intentionalaction requires an appropriate predictive link between intentions and effects, rather than a retrospective inference that ''I'' caused the effect. (shrink)
Four experiments examined people’s folk-psychological concept of intentionalaction. The chief question was whether or not _evaluative _considerations — considerations of good and bad, right and wrong, praise and blame — played any role in that concept. The results indicated that the moral qualities of a behavior strongly influence people’s judgements as to whether or not that behavior should be considered ‘intentional.’ After eliminating a number of alternative explanations, the author concludes that this effect is best explained (...) by the hypothesis that evaluative considerations do play some role in people’s concept of intentionalaction.<b> </b>. (shrink)
Social stimuli grab our attention: we attend to them in an automatic and bottom-up manner, and ascribe them a higher degree of saliency compared to non-social stimuli. However, it has rarely been investigated how variations in attention affect the processing of social stimuli, although the answer could help us uncover details of social cognition processes such as action understanding. In the present study, we examined how changes to bottom-up attention affects neural EEG-responses associated with intentionalaction processing. (...) We induced an increase in bottom-up attention by using hypnosis. We recorded the electroencephalographic µ-wave suppression of hypnotized participants when presented with intentional actions in first and third person perspective in a video-clip paradigm. Previous studies have shown that the µ-rhythm is selectively suppressed both when executing and observing goal-directed motor actions; hence it can be used as a neural signal for intentionalaction processing. Our results show that neutral hypnotic trance increases µ-suppression in highly suggestible participants when they observe intentional actions. This suggests that social action processing is enhanced when bottom-up attentional processes are predominant. Our findings support the Social Relevance Hypothesis, according to which social action processing is a bottom-up driven attentional process, and can thus be altered as a function of bottom-up processing devoted to a social stimulus. (shrink)
I. Thanks largely to Joshua Knobe, philosophers now frequently empirically investigate the folk psychological concept of intentionalaction. Knobe (2003, 2004a, 2004b) argues that application of this concept is often surprisingly sensitive to one’s moral views. In particular, it seems that people are much more willing to regard a bit of behavior as intentional, if they think that the action in question is bad or wrong. There is much controversy about both the design and the interpretation (...) of the experiments Knobe has conducted. One concern is that common use of the word ‘intentionally’ seems to be sensitive to matters other than the concept of intentionalaction. Perhaps the use of the word ‘intentionally’ is also governed by pragmatic thoughts about blameworthiness—if you think N.N. is to be blamed for ф-ing, then you are more likely to say that N.N. is ф-ing intentionally, apart from whether you really judge that the ф-ing was intentional (Adams and Steadman 2004a). One way to neutralize these concerns is to gauge whether people regard an action as intentional, not by asking them whether they would apply the word ‘intentional’ or its cognates to the action in question, but by seeing whether they treat the action as susceptible to reason explanations. After all, if some act of ф-ing is susceptible to a reason explanation, then the act of ф-ing is intentional. Knobe infers that we can see whether a psychological subject regards some act as intentional by seeing whether the subject is willing to say that the bit of behavior can function appropriately in a reasons explanation. (shrink)
Among philosophers, there are at least two prevalent views about the core concept of intentionalaction. View I (Adams 1986, 1997; McCann 1986) holds that an agent S intentionally does an action A only if S intends to do A. View II (Bratman 1987; Harman 1976; and Mele 1992) holds that there are cases where S intentionally does A without intending to do A, as long as doing A is foreseen and S is willing to accept A (...) as a consequence of S’s action. Joshua Knobe (2003a) presents intriguing data that may be taken to support the second view.1 Knobe’s data show an asymmetry in folk judgements. People are more inclined to judge that S did A intentionally, even when not intended, if A was perceived as causing a harm (e.g. harming the environment). There is an asymmetry because people are not inclined to see S’s action as intentional, when not intended, if A is perceived as causing a beneﬁt (e.g. helping the environment). In this paper we will discuss Knobe’s results in detail. We will raise the question of whether his ordinary language surveys of folk judgments have accessed core concepts of intentionalaction. We suspect that instead Knobe’s surveys are tapping into pragmatic aspects of intentional language and its role in moral praise and blame. We will suggest alternative surveys that we plan to conduct to get at this difference, and we will attempt to explain the pragmatic usage of intentional language. (shrink)
Detecting conscious awareness in a patient emerging from a coma state is problematic, because our standard attributions of conscious awareness rely on interpreting bodily movement as intentionalaction. Where there is an absence of intentional bodily action, as in the vegetative state, can we reliably assume that there is an absence of conscious awareness? Recent neuroimaging work suggests that we can attribute conscious awareness to some patients in a vegetative state by interpreting their brain activity as (...)intentional mental action. I suggest that this change of focus, from the interpretation of motor behaviour as intentional bodily action to the interpretation of neural activity as intentional mental action, raises philosophical issues that affect the interpretation of the neuroimaging data. (shrink)
Recent empirical research by Joshua Knobe has uncovered two asymmetries in judgements about intentionalaction and moral responsibility. First, people are more inclined to say that a side effect was brought about intentionally when they regard that side effect as bad than when they regard it as good. Secondly, people are more inclined to ascribe blame to someone for bad effects than they are inclined to ascribe praise for good effects. These findings suggest that the notion of (...) class='Hi'>intentionalaction has a normative component. I propose a theory of intentionalaction on which one acts intentionally if one fails to be motivated to avoid a bad effect. This explains the asymmetry concerning intentionalaction. The praise–blame asymmetry is explained in terms of the claim that praise depends on being appropriately motivated, whereas blame does not. (shrink)
Skill or control is commonly regarded as a necessary condition for intentionalaction. This received wisdom is challenged by experiments conducted by Joshua Knobe and Thomas Nadelhoffer, which suggest that moral considerations sometimes trump considerations of skill and control. I argue that this effect (as well as the Knobe effect) can be explained in terms of the role normative reasons play in the concept of intentionalaction. This explanation has significant advantages over its rivals. It involves (...) at most a conservative extension rather than a radical revision of what we tend to believe about intentionalaction, and it fits better with the way we conceive of the relation between intentionalaction and moral responsibility. (shrink)
This article reviews some recent empirical work on lay judgments about what agents do intentionally and what they intend in various stories and explores its bearing on the philosophical project of providing a conceptual analysis of intentionalaction. The article is a case study of the potential bearing of empirical studies of a variety of folk concepts on philosophical efforts to analyze those concepts and vice versa. Topics examined include double effect; the influence of moral considerations on judgments (...) about what is done intentionally and about what is intended; the influence of considerations of luck, skill, and causal deviance on judgments about what agents do intentionally; what interesting properties all cases of intentionalaction might share; and the debate between proponents of, respectively, "the Simple View" of the connection between intentionalaction and intention and "the Single Phenomenon View" of that connection. A substantial body of literature is devoted to the project of analyzing intentionalaction  . In this article, I explore the bearing on that project of some recent empirical work on lay judgments about what is done intentionally and about what is intended. This article may reasonably be regarded as a case study of the potential bearing of empirical studies of a range of folk concepts on philosophical efforts to analyze those concepts and, likewise, of the potential bearing of attempted philosophical analyses of folk concepts on empirical studies of those concepts. (shrink)
Empirically minded researchers (e.g., experimental philosophers) have begun exploring the “folk” notion of intentionalaction, often with surprising results. In this paper, we extend these lines of research and present new evidence from a radically new paradigm in experimental philosophy. Our results suggest that in some circumstances people make strikingly different judgments about intentions and intentionality as a function of whether the person brings about or observes an event. Implications for traditional action theory and the experimental study (...) of folk intuitions are discussed. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to make a critical assessment of Krister Segerberg''s theory of action. The first part gives a critical presentation of the key concepts in Segerberg''s informal theory of action. These are the ideas that motivate the formal models he develops. In the second part it is argued that if one takes all of Segerberg''s motivating ideas seriously, problems are forthcoming. The main problem is that on this theory the agents seem to be bound (...) to realize all of their intentions, a problem that stems from Segerberg''s attempt to individuate actions in terms of the agent''s intentions. On the ground that this unfortunate result is forthcoming in both of Segerberg''s approaches to the logic of action it is concluded that the conceptual basis of the theory is problematic. (shrink)
In “Intentionalaction and side-effects in ordinary language” (2003), Joshua Knobe reported an asymmetry in test subjects’ responses to a question about intentionality: subjects are more likely to judge that a side effect of an agent’s intended action is intentional if they think the side effect is morally bad than if they think it is morally good. This result has been taken to suggest that the concept of intentionality is an inherently moral concept. In this paper, (...) we draw attention to the fact that Knobe’s original interpretation of the results is based on an abstract rendering of the central scenario that is significantly different from the vignettes presented to the survey participants. In particular, the experimental vignettes involve temporal and social dimensions; they portray sequences of social actions involving an agent and an interlocutor, rather than a lone agent making a momentary decision in light of certain attitudes. Through textual analyses of a set of vignettes used to study the Knobe effect, drawing on ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, and discursive psychology, we show that there are many differences between the experimental conditions besides the moral valence of the side effect. In light of our textual analyses, we discuss vignette methodology in experimental philosophy and suggest an alternative interpretation of Knobe’s original experimental results. We also argue that experimental philosophy could benefit from considering research on naturally occurring social interaction as an alternative source of empirical findings for discussions of folk-psychological concepts. (shrink)
In order to be doing something intentionally, must one know that one is doing it? Some philosophers have answered yes. Our aim is to test a version of this knowledge thesis, what we call the Knowledge/Awareness Thesis, or KAT. KAT states that an agent is doing something intentionally only if he knows that he is doing it or is aware that he is doing it. Here, using vignettes featuring skilled action and vignettes featuring habitual action, we provide evidence (...) that, in various scenarios, a majority of non-specialists regard agents as intentionally doing things that the agents do not know they are doing and are not aware of doing. This puts pressure on proponents of KAT and leaves it to them to find a way these results can coexist with KAT. (shrink)
We argue that any strong version of a knowledge condition on intentionalaction, the practical knowledge principle, on which knowledge of what I am doing (under some description: call it A-ing) is necessary for that A-ing to qualify as an intentionalaction, is false. Our argument involves a new kind of case, one that centers the agent’s control appropriately and thus improves upon Davidson’s well-known carbon copier case. After discussing this case, offering an initial argument against (...) the knowledge condition, and discussing recent treatments that cover nearby ground, we consider several objections. One we consider at some length maintains that although contemplative knowledge may be disconnected from intentionalaction, specifically practical knowledge of the sort Anscombe elucidated escapes our argument. We demonstrate that this is not so. Our argument illuminates an important truth, often overlooked in discussions of the knowledge-intentionalaction relationship: intentionalaction and knowledge have different levels of permissiveness regarding failure in similar circumstances. (shrink)
Much of the recent work in action theory can be organized around a set of objections facing the Simple View and other intention-based accounts of intentionalaction. In this paper, I review three of the most popular objections to the Simple View and argue that all three objections commit a common fallacy. I then draw some more general conclusions about the relationship between intentionalaction and moral responsibility.
There has been a long-standing dispute in the philosophical literature about the conditions under which a behavior counts as 'intentional.' Much of the debate turns on questions about the use of certain words and phrases in ordinary language. The present paper investigates these questions empirically, using experimental techniques to investigate people's use of the relevant words and phrases. g.
Philosophers traditionally have been concerned both to explain intentional behavior and to evaluate it from a moral point of view. Some have maintained that whether actions (and their consequences) properly count as intended sometimes hinges on moral considerations - specifically, considerations of moral responsibility. The same claim has been made about an action's properly counting as having been done intentionally. These contentions will be made more precise in subsequent sections, where influential proponents are identified. Our aim in this (...) paper is to show that familiar defenses of these more precise claims are unpersuasive and that the claims do not merit acceptance. Our concern, more broadly, is to illuminate the place occupied by intention and intentionalaction in a conceptual scheme suited both to explanatory needs in the philosophy of mind to evaluative needs in moral philosophy. (shrink)
We shall formulate an analysis of the ordinary notion of intentionalaction that clarifies a commonsense distinction between intentional and nonintentional action. Our analysis will build on some typically neglected considerations about relations between lucky action and intentionalaction. It will highlight the often- overlooked role of evidential considerations in intentionalaction, thus identifying the key role of certain epistemological considerations in action theory. We shall also explain why some vagueness (...) is indispensable in a characterization of intentionalaction as ordinarily understood. (shrink)
Recent empirical work calls into question the so-called Simple View that an agent who A’s intentionally intends to A. In experimental studies, ordinary speakers frequently assent to claims that, in certain cases, agents who knowingly behave wrongly intentionally bring about the harm they do; yet the speakers tend to deny that it was the intention of those agents to cause the harm. This paper reports two additional studies that at first appear to support the original ones, but argues that in (...) fact, the evidence of all the studies considered is best understood in terms of the Simple View. (shrink)
In any given day, I do many things. I perspire, digest and age. When I walk, I place one foot ahead of the other, my arms swinging gently at my sides; if someone bumps into me, I stumble. Perspiring, digesting, aging, placing my feet, swaying my arms and stumbling are all things I do, in some sense. Yet I also check my email, teach students and go to the grocery store. Those sorts of doings or behaviors seem distinctive; they are (...) things I do intentionally. -/- What exactly is an intentionalaction? How does it differ from other things we do? -/- In this essay, I motivate and sketch an answer to those questions. On this view, an intentionalaction is a behavior that essentially alters what the actor is rationally accountable for, what she is rationally permitted or obliged to do, think, or feel. On this view, acting intentionally essentially involves a normative expectation that one has reasons for what one does. I call this view Normative Functionalism. -/- I begin in §2 by presenting a different, somewhat intuitive and popular view of intentionalaction, the so-called Causal Theory of Action. While that view does seem plausible, I allege that it doesn’t seem to accommodate the apparent fact that actors are accountable for their intentional actions. That motivates Normative Functionalism, which I sketch in §3. I conclude in §4 by offering an interim assessment of the discussion. (shrink)