Doing without action types

Review of Symbolic Logic:1-31 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

This paper explores the analysis of ability, where ability is to be understood in the epistemic sense—in contrast to what might be called a causal sense. There are plenty of cases where an agent is able to perform an action that guarantees a given result even though she does not know which of her actions guarantees that result. Such an agent possesses the causal ability but lacks the epistemic ability. The standard analysis of such epistemic abilities relies on the notion of action types—as opposed to action tokens—and then posits that an agent has the epistemic ability to do something if and only if there is an action type available to her that she knows guarantees it. We show that these action types are not needed: we present a formalism without action types that can simulate analyzes of epistemic ability that rely on action types. Our formalism is a standard epistemic extension of the theory of “seeing to it that”, which arose from a modal tradition in the logic of action.

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Author Profiles

Hein Duijf
Utrecht University
Jan Broersen
Utrecht University

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