Motor Intentions and Non‐Observational Knowledge of Action: A Standard Story

Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 6 (3):137-146 (2017)
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According to the standard story given by reductive versions of the Causal Theory of Action, an action is an intrinsically mindless bodily movement that is appropriately caused by an intention. Those who embrace this story typically take this intention to have a coarse-grained content, specifying the action only down to the level of the agent's habits and skills. Markos Valaris argues that, because of this, the standard story cannot make sense of the deep reach of our non-observational knowledge of action. He concludes that we therefore have to jettison its conception of actions as mindless bodily movements animated from the outside by intentions. Here we defend the standard story. We can make sense of the reach of non-observational knowledge of action once we reject the following two assumptions: (i) that an intended habitual or skilled action is a so-called basic action—that is, an action that doesn't involve any finer-grained intentions—and (ii) that an agent, in acting, is merely executing one intention rather than a whole hierarchy of more or less fine-grained intentions. We argue that (i) and (ii) are false.

Author Profiles

Olle Blomberg
University of Gothenburg
Chiara Brozzo
Universitat de Barcelona


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