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What good is a will?

In Anton Leist & Holger Baumann (eds.), Action in Context. de Gruyter/Mouton (2007)

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  1. Reply to Catriona MacKenzie.J. David Velleman - 2007 - Philosophical Explorations 10 (3):283 – 290.
    In her excellent critique of my book Self to Self (2006), Catriona Mackenzie highlights three gaps in my view of the self. First, my effort to distinguish among different applications of the concept 'self' is not matched by any attempt to explain the interactions among the selves so distinguished. Second, in analyzing practical reasoning as aimed at self-understanding, I speak sometimes of causal-psychological understanding (e.g. in the paper titled 'The Centered Self') and sometimes of narrative self-understanding (e.g. in 'The Self (...)
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  • Sociality and Solitude.J. David Velleman - 2013 - Philosophical Explorations 16 (3):324-335.
    “How can I, who am thinking about the entire, centerless universe, be anything so specific as this: this measly creature existing in a tiny morsel of space and time?” This metaphysically self-deprecating question, posed by Thomas Nagel, holds an insight into the nature of personhood and the ordinary ways we value it, in others and in ourselves. I articulate that insight and apply it to the phenomena of friendship, companionship, sexuality, solitude, and love. Although love comes in many forms, I (...)
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  • Mental Action.Antonia Peacocke - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 16 (6):e12741.
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  • Intending Recalcitrant Social Ends.Carlos Núñez - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (2):477-498.
    One can intend the actions of others, even when one believes such actions are not under one’s control. Call the objects of intentions “ends”; the ends that consist of other people’s actions “social”; and the ends that consist of things one believes one cannot control “recalcitrant”. The thesis, then, is that one can intend recalcitrant social ends. I present a positive argument in favor of this idea, and then argue against some purported conditions on the possible content of intentions that (...)
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  • Michael Bratman’s Planning, Time, and Self-Governance.J. David Velleman - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 64 (9):913-925.
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  • Rational Norms for Degreed Intention (and the Discrepancy Between Theoretical and Practical Reason).Jay Jian - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-15.
    Given the success of the formal approach, within contemporary epistemology, to understanding degreed belief, some philosophers have recently considered its extension to the challenge of understanding intention. According to them, (1) intentions can also admit of degrees, as beliefs do, and (2) these degreed states are all governed by the norms of the probability calculus, such that the rational norms for belief and for intention exhibit certain structural similarity. This paper, however, raises some worries about (2). It considers two schemes (...)
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  • The Limits of Partial Doxasticism.Facundo M. Alonso - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly (2):326-345.
    Doxasticism is the thesis that intention is or involves belief in the forthcoming action (Velleman, Harman). Supporters claim that it is only by accepting that thesis that we can explain a wide array of important phenomena, including the special knowledge we have of intentional action, the roles intention plays in facilitating coordination, and the norms of rationality for intention. Others argue that the thesis is subject to counterexample (Davidson, Bratman). Yet some others contend that the thesis can be reformulated in (...)
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  • The Myth of Practical Consistency.Niko Kolodny - 2008 - European Journal of Philosophy 16 (3):366-402.
    Niko Kolodny It is often said that there is a special class of norms, ‘rational requirements’, that demand that our attitudes be related one another in certain ways, whatever else may be the case.1 In recent work, a special class of these rational requirements has attracted particular attention: what I will call ‘requirements of formal coherence as such’, which require just that our attitudes be formally coherent.2 For example, we are rationally required, if we believe something, to believe what it (...)
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  • The Woody Allen Puzzle: How ‘Authentic Alienation’ Complicates Autonomy.Suzy Killmister - 2015 - Noûs 49 (4):729-747.
    Theories of autonomy commonly make reference to some form of endorsement: an action is autonomous insofar as the agent has a second-order desire towards the motivating desire, or takes it to be a reason for action, or is not alienated from it. In this paper I argue that all such theories have difficulty accounting for certain kinds of agents, what I call ‘Woody Allen cases’. In order to make sense of such cases, I suggest, it is necessary to disambiguate two (...)
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  • Intending Recalcitrant Social Ends.Carlos Núñez - 2019 - Annalen der Philosophie 87 (2):477-498.
    One can intend the actions of others, even when one believes such actions are not under one’s control. Call the objects of intentions “ends”; the ends that consist of other people’s actions “social”; and the ends that consist of things one believes one cannot control “recalcitrant”. The thesis, then, is that one can intend recalcitrant social ends. I present a positive argument in favor of this idea, and then argue against some purported conditions on the possible content of intentions that (...)
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  • Action.Luca Ferrero - 2009 - In John Shand (ed.), Central Issues of Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 137-151.
    An introductory survey of the contemporary philosophy of action.
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  • The Woody Allen Puzzle: How 'Authentic Alienation' Complicates Autonomy.Suzy Killmister - 2014 - Noûs 48 (2):729-747.
    Theories of autonomy commonly make reference to some form of endorsement: an action is autonomous insofar as the agent has a second-order desire towards the motivating desire, or takes it to be a reason for action, or is not alienated from it. In this paper I argue that all such theories have difficulty accounting for certain kinds of agents, what I call ‘Woody Allen cases’. In order to make sense of such cases, I suggest, it is necessary to disambiguate two (...)
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  • Agency and Awareness.Chrisoula Andreou - 2013 - Ratio 26 (2):117-133.
    I focus on the idea that if, as a result of lacking any conscious goal related to X-ing and any conscious anticipation or awareness of X-ing, one could sincerely reply to the question ‘Why are you X-ing?’ with ‘I didn't realize I was doing that,’ then one's X-ing is not intentional. My interest is in the idea interpreted as philosophically substantial (rather than merely stipulative) and as linked to the familiar view that there is a major difference, relative to the (...)
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  • The Normativity of Rationality.Jonathan Way - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (12):1057-1068.
    This article is an introduction to the recent debate about whether rationality is normative – that is, very roughly, about whether we should have attitudes which fit together in a coherent way. I begin by explaining an initial problem – the “detaching problem” – that arises on the assumption that we should have coherent attitudes. I then explain the prominent “wide-scope” solution to this problem, and some of the central objections to it. I end by considering the options that arise (...)
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  • Emotions, Actions and Inclinations to Act.Christiana Werner - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-18.
    Emotional responses to fiction are part of our experience with art and media. Some of these responses seem to be directed towards fictional entities—entities that we believe do not exist. Some philosophers argue that fictional emotions differ in nature from other emotional responses. :5–27, 1978, Mimesis as make-believe, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1990, Walton, in: Hjort, Laver Emotion and the arts, Oxford University, New York, 1997; Currie in The nature of fiction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990; Stecker in Br J (...)
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  • Trying Cognitivism: A Defence of the Strong Belief Thesis.Avery Archer - 2018 - Theoria 84 (2):140-156.
    According to the Strong Belief Thesis (SBT), intending to X entails the belief that one will X. John Brunero has attempted to impugn SBT by arguing that there are cases in which an agent intends to X but is unsure that she will X. Moreover, he claims that the standard reply to such putative counterexamples to SBT – namely, to claim that the unsure agent merely has an intention to try – comes at a high price. Specifically, it prevents SBT (...)
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  • Non‐Observational Knowledge of Action.John Schwenkler - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (10):731-740.
    Intuitively, the knowledge of one’s own intentional actions is different from the knowledge of actions of other sorts, including those of other people and unintentional actions of one's own. But how are we to understand this phenomenon? Does it pertain to all actions, under every description under which they are known? If so, then how is this possible? If not, then how should we think about cases that are exceptions to this principle? This paper is a critical survey of recent (...)
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  • So It Goes.David Velleman - 2020
    Derek Parfit finally meets the Buddha -- on Tralfamadore! This paper is also archived at SSRN.
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  • Intentions and Interactive Transformations of Decision Problems.Olivier Roy - 2009 - Synthese 169 (2):335 - 349.
    In this paper I study two ways of transforming decision problems on the basis of previously adopted intentions, ruling out incompatible options and imposing a standard of relevance, with a particular focus on situations of strategic interaction. I show that in such situations problems arise which do not appear in the single-agent case, namely that transformation of decision problems can leave the agents with no option compatible with what they intend. I characterize conditions on the agents’ intentions which avoid such (...)
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  • How We Know What We Intend.Sarah K. Paul - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 161 (2):327-346.
    How do we know what our intentions are? It is argued that work on self-knowledge has tended to neglect the attitude of intention, and that an epistemological account is needed that is attuned to the specific features of that state. Richard Moran’s Authorship view, on which we can acquire self-knowledge by making up our minds, offers a promising insight for such an account: we do not normally discover what we intend through introspection. However, his formulation of the Authorship view, developed (...)
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  • The Contribution of Security to Well-Being.Jonathan Herington - 2019 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 14 (3).
    Do unknown and unrealized risks of harm diminish an individual’s well-being? The traditional answer is no: that the security of prudential goods benefits an individual only instrumentally or by virtue of their subjective sense of security. Recent work has argued, however, that the security of prudential goods non-instrumentally benefits an individual regardless of whether or not they enjoy subjective security. In this paper, I critically examine three claims about the way in which unknown and unrealized risks of harm might diminish (...)
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  • Requirements of intention in light of belief.Carlos Núñez - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (9):2471-2492.
    Much work in the philosophy of action in the last few decades has focused on the elucidation and justification of a series of purported norms of practical rationality that concern the presence or absence of intention in light of belief, and that demand a kind of structural coherence in the psychology of an agent. Examples of such norms include: Intention Detachment, which proscribes intending to do something in case some condition obtains, believing that such condition obtains, and not intending to (...)
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  • Practical Knowledge and Acting Together.Blomberg Olle - 2018 - In J. Adam Carter, Andy Clark, Jesper Kallestrup, Orestis Palermos & Duncan Pritchard (eds.), Socially Extended Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 87-111.
    According to one influential philosophical view of human agency, for an agent to perform an action intentionally is essentially for her to manifest a kind of self-knowledge: An agent is intentionally φ-ing if and only if she has a special kind of practical and non-observational knowledge that this is what she is doing. I here argue that this self-knowledge view faces serious problems when extended to account for intentional actions performed by several agents together as a result of a joint (...)
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  • Decisions, Diachronic Autonomy, and the Division of Deliberative Labor.Luca Ferrero - 2010 - Philosophers' Imprint 10:1-23.
    It is often argued that future-directed decisions are effective at shaping our future conduct because they give rise, at the time of action, to a decisive reason to act as originally decided. In this paper, I argue that standard accounts of decision-based reasons are unsatisfactory. For they focus either on tie-breaking scenarios or cases of self-directed distal manipulation. I argue that future-directed decisions are better understood as tools for the non-manipulative, intrapersonal division of deliberative labor over time. A future-directed decision (...)
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  • Anscombe on Practical Knowledge.Kieran Setiya - 2016 - In Practical Knowledge: Selected Essays. Oxford University Press.
    Argues that, for Anscombe, 'practical knowledge' is only sometimes 'the cause of what it understands.' It is the formal cause when its object is 'formally the description of an executed intention.' Nor is such knowledge confined to the present progressive: we have practical knowledge of the future and the past.
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  • Cognitivism About Practical Rationality.John Brunero - 2014 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 9:18-44.
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  • The Shmagency Question.Matthew Silverstein - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1127-1142.
    Constitutivists hope to locate the foundations of ethics in the nature of action. They hope to find norms that are constitutive of agency. Recently David Enoch has argued that even if there are such norms, they cannot provide the last word when it comes to normativity, since they cannot tell us whether we have reason to be agents rather than shmagents. I argue that the force of the shmagency objection has been considerably overestimated, because philosophers on both sides of the (...)
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  • Intending, Settling, and Relying.Facundo M. Alonso - 2017 - In David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility. Volume 4. Oxford University Press. pp. 50-74.
    Philosophers of action of different persuasions have suggested that there is a tight connection between the phenomenon of intending and the phenomena of “being settled on” and of “settling” a course of action. For many, this connection supports an important constraint on intention: one may only intend what one takes one’s so intending as settling. Traditionally, this has been understood as a doxastic constraint on intention: what one takes one’s intention as settling is what one believes one’s so intending as (...)
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  • Decisions, Reasons and Rationality.Garrett Cullity - 2008 - Ethics 119 (1):57-95.
    What difference do our decisions make to our reasons for action and the rationality of our actions? There are two questions here, and good grounds for answering them differently. However, it still makes sense to discuss them together. By thinking about the relationships that reasons and rationality bear to decisions, we may be able to cast light on the relationship that reasons and rationality bear to each other.
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  • Common Knowledge and Reductionism About Shared Agency.Olle Blomberg - 2016 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (2):315-326.
    Most reductionist accounts of intentional joint action include a condition that it must be common knowledge between participants that they have certain intentions and beliefs that cause and coordinate the joint action. However, this condition has typically simply been taken for granted rather than argued for. The condition is not necessary for ensuring that participants are jointly responsible for the action in which each participates, nor for ensuring that each treats the others as partners rather than as social tools. It (...)
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  • Trigger Warning: No Proximal Intentions Required for Intentional Action.Marcela Herdova - 2018 - Philosophical Explorations 21 (3):364-383.
    In this paper, I argue that some intentional actions are not triggered by proximal intentions; i.e. there are actions which are intentional, but lack relevant proximal intentions in their immediate causal history. More specifically, I first introduce various properties of intentions. I then argue that some actions are triggered by mental states which lack properties typically ascribed to intentions, yet these actions are still intentional. The view that all intentional actions are triggered by proximal intentions is thus false.
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  • Why Cognitivism?Yair Levy - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (2):223-244.
    Intention Cognitivism – the doctrine that intending to V entails, or even consists in, believing that one will V – is an important position with potentially wide-ranging implications, such as a revisionary understanding of practical reason, and a vindicating explanation of 'Practical Knowledge'. In this paper, I critically examine the standard arguments adduced in support of IC, including arguments from the parity of expression of intention and belief; from the ability to plan around one's intention; and from the explanation provided (...)
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  • Rationalizing Flow: Agency in Skilled Unreflective Action.Michael Brownstein - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 168 (2):545-568.
    In recent work, Peter Railton, Julia Annas, and David Velleman aim to reconcile the phenomenon of “flow”—broadly understood as describing the “unreflective” aspect of skilled action—with one or another familiar conception of agency. While there are important differences between their arguments, Railton, Annas, and Velleman all make, or are committed to, at least one similar pivotal claim. Each argues, directly or indirectly, that agents who perform skilled unreflective actions can, in principle, accurately answer “Anscombean” questions—”what” and “why” questions— about what (...)
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  • Instrumental Rationality.John Brunero & Niko Kolodny - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  • Alienation or regress: on the non-inferential character of agential knowledge.Juan S. Piñeros Glasscock - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):1757-1768.
    A central debate in philosophy of action concerns whether agential knowledge, the knowledge agents characteristically have of their own actions, is inferential. While inferentialists like Sarah Paul hold that it is inferential, others like Lucy O’Brien and Kieran Setiya argue that it is not. In this paper, I offer a novel argument for the view that agential knowledge is non-inferential, by posing a dilemma for inferentialists: on the first horn, inferentialism is committed to holding that agents have only alienated knowledge (...)
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  • Planning on a Prior Intention.Facundo Alonso - 2020 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 18 (3):229-265.
    Intention plays a central role in coordinating action. It does so, it is commonly thought, by allowing one to plan further actions for the future on the basis of the belief that it will be executed. Doxasticists about intention (Harman, Velleman) conclude from this that accounting for this role of intention requires accepting the thesis that intention involves belief. Conativists (Bratman, Brunero, Mele) reject that conclusion. I argue that Doxasticists are right in calling attention to the existence of a cognitive (...)
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  • Deviant Formal Causation.Sarah K. Paul - 2011 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 5 (3):1-24.
    What is the role of practical thought in determining the intentional action that is performed? Donald Davidson’s influential answer to this question is that thought plays an efficient-causal role: intentional actions are those events that have the correct causal pedigree in the agent's beliefs and desires. But the Causal Theory of Action has always been plagued with the problem of “deviant causal chains,” in which the right action is caused by the right mental state but in the wrong way. This (...)
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  • What Good is a Diachronic Will?Luca Ferrero - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 144 (3):403-430.
    There are two standard conceptions of the functioning of and rationale for the diachronic will, i.e., for an agent's capacity to settle on her future conduct in advance. According to the pragmatic-instrumentalist view, the diachronic will benefits us by increasing the long-term satisfaction of our rational preferences. According to the cognitive view, it benefits us by satisfying our standing desire for self-knowledge and self-understanding. Contrary to these views, I argue for a constitutive view of the diachronic will: the rationale for (...)
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  • Intention.Kieran Setiya - 2009 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Philosophical perplexity about intention begins with its appearance in three guises: intention for the future, as when I intend to complete this entry by the end of the month; the intention with which someone acts, as I am typing with the further intention of writing an introductory sentence; and intentional action, as in the fact that I am typing these words intentionally. As Elizabeth Anscombe wrote in a similar context, ‘it is implausible to say that the word is equivocal as (...)
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