Volume 9, 2006
The Motivational Strength of Intentions
According to the early versions of the causal theory of action, intentional actions were both produced and explained by a beliefdesire pair. Since the end of the seventies, however, most philosophers consider intentions as an irreducible and indispensable component of any adequate account of intentional action. The aim of this paper is to examine and evaluate some of the arguments that gave rise to the introduction of the concept of intention in action theory. My contention is that none of them is conclusive. To sustain my claim, I first discuss some of the main differentiating functions commonly attributed to intentions. Contrary to the dominant view, I show that many of these functions, especially those attributed to distal intentions, have little to do with the causal character of action theory. I also maintain that many of the allegedly specific functions of intentions can be ascribed to the preeminent motive of the agent. Finally, I argue that the intention thesis cannot be reconciled with the motivational strength thesis, and that the latter is a decisive reason to forsake the former.