Conditional Intentions

Noûs 43 (4):700 - 741 (2009)
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Abstract
In this paper, I will discuss the various ways in which intentions can be said to be conditional, with particular attention to the internal conditions on the intentions’ content. I will first consider what it takes to carry out a conditional intention. I will then discuss how the distinctive norms of intention apply to conditional intentions and whether conditional intentions are a weaker sort of commitments than the unconditional ones. This discussion will lead to the idea of what I call the ‘deep structure’ of intentions. Roughly, this is the idea that the conditional nature of our intentions is only partially made explicit in the expressions we use to communicate our intentions and in the explicit form of our thinking about and reasoning with them. Most conditions that qualify our intentions are part of a deep functional structure that can be evinced by observing the actual psychological functioning of intentions and by considering the rational requirements that they engage. I will argue that the deep structure of intentions is characteristically conditional. Genuinely unconditional intentions are only limiting instances of conditional intentions and their contribution to agency can only be understood in light of this fact. I will conclude by showing that the characteristic conditional structure of intentions is intimately related to distinctive features of human agency, especially to its unity over time
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2009-09-18

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