Knowledge, practical knowledge, and intentional action

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 9:556-583 (2023)
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Abstract

We argue that any strong version of a knowledge condition on intentional action, the practical knowledge principle, on which knowledge of what I am doing (under some description: call it A-ing) is necessary for that A-ing to qualify as an intentional action, is false. Our argument involves a new kind of case, one that centers the agent’s control appropriately and thus improves upon Davidson’s well-known carbon copier case. After discussing this case, offering an initial argument against the knowledge condition, and discussing recent treatments that cover nearby ground, we consider several objections. One we consider at some length maintains that although contemplative knowledge may be disconnected from intentional action, specifically practical knowledge of the sort Anscombe elucidated escapes our argument. We demonstrate that this is not so. Our argument illuminates an important truth, often overlooked in discussions of the knowledge-intentional action relationship: intentional action and knowledge have different levels of permissiveness regarding failure in similar circumstances.

Author Profiles

Joshua Shepherd
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
J. Adam Carter
University of Glasgow

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