What Is the Bearing of Thinking on Doing?

In Adrian Haddock & Rachael Wiseman (eds.), The Anscombean Mind. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 312-332 (2021)
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What a person is doing often depends on that person’s thought about what they are doing, or about the wider circumstances of their action. For example, whether my killing is murder or manslaughter depends, in part, on whether I understand that what I am doing is killing you, and on whether I understand that my killing is unjustified. Similarly, if I know that the backpack I am taking is yours, then my taking it may be an act of theft; but it is not theft if I simply mistook your backpack for my own. And if I don’t know that in signing a document I’m promising to do some thing, then in signing it I’m not promising to do this at all. According to Elizabeth Anscombe, a central task of philosophical psychology is to articulate this dependency of action on thought. And in a range of papers published during the 1960s, Anscombe sought to elucidate various aspects of this dependency. In this paper we give a systematic overview of how Anscombe understands this dependency, and in the process reveal the conceptual framework underlying Anscombe’s thinking about perception, desire, intention, voluntariness, responsibility, guilt, and sin.

Author Profiles

Marshall Bierson
Catholic University of America
John Schwenkler
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


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