SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Simple View and the Problem of Action Individuation
(Action Theory, English)

The main goal of my presentation is to justify the claim that moderationism, a doctrine which emerged during a discussion about action individuation in analytic philosophy is incompatible with the Simple View, an intuitive account of the relationship between intentions and intentional actions. My considerations will begin with a critical reconstruction of two different solutions to the problem of action individuation. In G.E.M. Anscombe's well-known example, a man moves his arm, thereby moving a pomp, supplying poisoned water to a village and killing the inhabitants. According to externalist moderationists [Thomson 1977, Thalberg 1977], actions are complex events extending in time and space beyond the movements of agent's body. For example, an action of killing the inhabitants performed by the man should be identified with the whole chain of causally related events leading from the movements of the man's arm to the inhabitants' death. In opposition to the moderationism stands the view that when an agent does something by doing something else only one single action is performed. For internalist minimalists [Anscombe 1963, Davidson 2001] the only actions people perform are `mere movements of a body'-- particular events under various descriptions (`operating a pump', `killing of the inhabitants').
In the second part of my presentation I will present the analysis of intentional action that has been dubbed the `Simple View', according to which an agent A intentionally φ-s only if A intends to φ [Adams 1986, McCann 1999]. In order to support the claim that the dispute about individuation of actions is much more than a verbal issue, I will develop a detailed argument in favor of the claim that every theory of action which conjoins moderationism with the Simple View [McCann 2013] is incoherent. More precisely, I will present a thought experiment demonstrating that in the light of moderationist view of action individuation one's mental states at the time one intentionally φ's may not include an intention to φ. And this observation may serve as a good starting point for developing a new argument against the Simple View.

ADAMS, F. (1986), Intention and Intentional Action: The Simple View, Mind and Language 1 (4), 281-301.
ANSCOMBE, G.E.M. (1963), Intention, Oxford: Blackwell.
DAVIDSON, D., (2001), Agency, in: Essays on Actions and Events, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
THALBERG, I., (1977), Perception, Emotion &Action. A Component Approach, Oxford: Blackwell.
THOMSON, J. J., (1977), Acts and Other Events, Cornell University Press.
GINET, C. (1990), On Action, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
MCCANN, H.J. (1999), Settled Objectives and Rational Constraints, The Philosophy of Action, A. Mele (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 204-222.
MCCANN, H.J. (2013), Action Individuation, A Companion to Donald Davidson. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy, E. Lepore, K. Ludwig (eds.), Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 46-61.

Chair: Albert Anglberger
Time: 14:00-14:30, 15 September 2017 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.004

Marta Zareba 
(University of Warsaw, Poland)

Marta Zareba -- PhD student at the Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw, master in philosophy; master thesis about the debate on action individuation; PhD thesis (in progress) about the concept of intention in analytic philosophy of action; Areas of philosophical interest: analytical philosophy of mind and action, ontology and analytical aesthetics.

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