Mentis (2012)

David Horst
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
In this book, I offer an account of intentional action. The book has two main parts: in the first part, I discuss and criticize the currently prevailing account of intentional action—the Causal Theory of Action (CTA)—and, in the second part, I offer my alternative account. The CTA proposes essentially two conditions for something that you do to be an intentional action: (1) what you do is represented by your intention (or other mental attitudes), and (2) it is caused by your intention. Against the CTA, I argue that, since it conceives of representation and causality as essentially separate conditions, it cannot explain why, when someone acts intentionally, it is not a mere accident that both conditions are jointly satisfied: i.e., that the intention causes the movement it represents. The CTA’s inability to rule out such accidentality is, as I argue further, the deeper source of the notorious problem of deviant causation. Given this diagnosis, I claim that the key for a satisfactory account of intentional action is to conceive of the essential unity of representation and causality in intentional action. Doing so, I suggest, requires understanding a distinctive sort of causality at work in intentional action. Following the work of G.E.M. Anscombe, I argue that what is distinctive of the sort of causal-explanatory connection captured in action explanations like “S is doing A because she intends to do B” is that it is essentially known by the acting subject. In the final sections of the book, I then develop and defend a conception of the sort of self-knowledge involved in intentional action.
Keywords intentional action  practical knowledge  intention  causal theory of action  Anscombe
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