Conflicting intentions: rectifying the consistency requirements

Philosophical Studies 176 (4):1097-1118 (2019)
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Many philosophers are convinced that rationality dictates that one’s overall set of intentions be consistent. The starting point and inspiration for our study is Bratman’s planning theory of intentions. According to this theory, one needs to appeal to the fulfilment of characteristic planning roles to justify norms that apply to our intentions. Our main objective is to demonstrate that one can be rational despite having mutually inconsistent intentions. Conversely, it is also shown that one can be irrational despite having a consistent overall set of intentions. To overcome this paradox, we argue that it is essential for a successful planning system that one’s intentions are practically consistent rather than being consistent or applying an aggregation procedure. Our arguments suggest that a new type of norm is needed: whereas the consistency requirement focuses on rendering the contents of one’s intentions consistent, our new practical consistency requirement demands that one’s intentions be able to simultaneously and unconditionally guide one’s action. We observe that for intentions that conform to the ‘own-action condition’, the practical consistency requirement is equivalent to the traditional consistency requirement. This implies that the consistency requirement only needs to be amended in scenarios of choice under uncertainty.



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Author Profiles

Hein Duijf
Utrecht University
Jan Broersen
Utrecht University

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References found in this work

Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Intention, plans, and practical reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Modal Logic: An Introduction.Brian F. Chellas - 1980 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Intention.Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe - 1957 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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