Volume 90, Issue 2, Spring 2016
Intention §§19 and 20
Although most work in contemporary Anglophone philosophical action theory understands Elizabeth Anscombe’s monograph on Intention as the work that inaugurates the field, action theory often operates by setting out to understand intentional action by investigating the psychological antecedents of intention action. Now, Anscombe has no quarrel with moral psychology. Intention is a work of moral psychology, but it is a kind of moral psychology in which we attend to the act of deliberately making something the case in order to understand having a mind to make something the case. The more usual approach takes things the other way around. Anscombe attempted to ward off such approaches in Intention. If the arguments of §19 are any good, for example, they ought to tell against the mind-first approach in contemporary Anglophone ethics and action theory. If the arguments of §20 work, then they ought to dispel any sense that Anscombe is prone to behaviorism. Together, the arguments in §§19 and 20 are meant to clear the ground necessary for work on practical knowledge. In this essay, I give a reading of these difficult, crucial sections of Anscombe’s monograph in order to explore her arguments.