The Amherst Lecture In Philosophy.

Lecture 6, 2011

“Some Remarks on Intention in Action”
John McDowell
University of Pittsburgh

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I suggest that intentions for the future become intentions in action when the time for acting comes. The image of intentions as a kind of continuant helpfully accommodates progress in an action; a persisting intention in action changes its shape in respect of how much of what is intended lies behind it and how much is still in prospect. Specific motor intentions in the course of, for instance, crossing a street are shapes successively taken by a persisting intention in action. I argue against the idea that an intention in action relates de re to the action it is in. Finally, adapting Brian O’Shaughnessy’s dual aspect conception of the will, I propose that when one intentionally engages in bodily action, the action’s intentional character is an aspect of something that is also bodily through and through. The result stands in contrast with familiar philosophical pictures of the relation between mind and body.

Preferred citation
McDowell, John. “Some Remarks on Intention in Action.” The Amherst Lecture in Philosophy 6 (2011): 1–18. <>.