What is the Content of an Intention in Action?

John McDowell

What is the content of an intention in action?

En: Ratio (new series) XXIII, 4 December, 2010. Ed. Blackwell.

Abstract:

“On the view proposed, the content of an intention in action is given by what one would say in expressing it, and the proper form for expressing such an intention is a statement about what one is doing: e.g. ‘I am doing such-and-such’. By contrast, some think that there are normative or evaluative elements to the content of an intention in action which would be left out of a form that merely stated facts. They think that the appropriate way to express such an intention is a statement about what one should be doing. Davidson, for example, thinks that the statement must essentially be a verdict: that doing such-and-such is all-out desirable. But this is to assume that practical reason is reasoning towards the truth of a proposition, the very mistake which obscures its ‘true character’, as Anscombe correctly points out. Moreover, although Davidson’s view helps him account for the possibility of weakness of will, his explanation of the phenomenon is strained and inferior by contrast with the account which the proposed view makes available. The proposed view fits into a broader picture in which intentional action is the exercise of a practical conceptual capacity.”

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