Unconscious motives and intentional action


Few philosophers would deny that unconscious motives enter into causal explanations of human behavior. But many would be reluctant to say that deeply unconscious motives have anything to do with the intentionality with which we act. I argue to the contrary that deeply unconscious motives can indeed contribute to agent-intentionality on the following condition: If she were self-aware and honest with respect to her unconscious motive, the agent would believe that it constituted her reason for the action of which it was a cause. I conclude that when an agent’s conscious reasons are vague, confused, or self-deceiving, her unconscious reason-grounding motive may fill what would otherwise be a gap in her intentionality.

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Michael Ladner
Claremont Graduate University


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