Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Intentional Actions: Explanation and Epistemology
by Nance, Ian Thomas, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2011, 199; 3482014
Abstract (Summary)

In contemporary philosophy of mind and action, the Standard View of intentional actions holds that they are identical to bodily movements that are caused in the right way by an agent's mental states and that the type of action an agent performs in making a movement is determined by the actual consequences of that movement. I argue that this conception cannot be reconciled with the success of commonplace forms of action explanation.

In Chapter 1, I examine explanations of agents' actions in terms of their mental states—their beliefs, desires and intentions. Assuming that these are successful causal explanations, I argue that their success cannot be accounted for on the Standard View. Drawing on James Woodward's manipulationist account of causal explanations, I claim that the kind of stable causal connection that allows for explanatory success holds between mental states and intentional actions, but not between these states and bodily movements.

In Chapter 2, I consider another form of action explanation, a form Michael Thompson has called "naive" explanation, wherein one action is explained in terms of another. I again assume that these explanations are successful and again argue that this success is not compatible with the Standard View. By investigating the way in which these explanations differ from causal explanations, I establish that these explanations depend on the fact that intentional actions have a stable structure. This is what makes intentional actions, unlike those performed unintentionally, capable of explaining their parts. The Standard View cannot capture this difference between intentional and unintentional actions.

In the final chapter, I turn to epistemological questions about intentional actions and argue that Christopher Peacocke's attempt to model our warrant for our beliefs about our intentional actions on our warrant for our perceptual beliefs does not succeed. It assumes, in accordance with Standard View, that bodily movements are the primary objects of our self-knowledge. I argue that this emphasis on movements mischaracterizes our epistemic relationship to our actions by failing to acknowledge important facts about their structure.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Falvey, Kevin
Commitee: Hanser, Matthew, Rescorla, Michael
School: University of California, Santa Barbara
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Bodily movements, Causation, Explanation, Intentional actions, Standard view
Publication Number: 3482014
ISBN: 9781267020352
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