A Role for Conscious Accessibility in Skilled Action

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 12 (3):683-697 (2020)
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Skilled sportsmen or musicians—more generally, skilled agents—often fill us with awe with the way they perform their actions. One question we may ask ourselves is whether they intended to perform some awe-inspiring aspects of their actions. This question becomes all the more pressing as it often turns out that these agents were not conscious of some of those aspects at the time of performance. As I shall argue, there are reasons for suspecting lack of conscious access to an aspect of one’s action to be incompatible with intending to perform that aspect of one’s action. Subsequently, though, I will also argue that, in some cases, the incompatibility is only prima facie, and can be dispelled by drawing the following distinction: that between aspects of one’s action that are merely temporarily not consciously accessed, versus aspects of one’s action that are permanently inaccessible to consciousness. I will thus remove an obstacle towards saying that skilled agents intended to perform certain aspects of their actions, despite lack of conscious access to those aspects at the time of performance.

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Chiara Brozzo
Universitat de Barcelona


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