Advertisement

Philosophical Studies

, Volume 166, Issue 3, pp 511–527 | Cite as

The volitive and the executive function of intentions

  • Christoph Lumer
Article

Abstract

Many philosophers of action, including Bratman and Mele, conceive intentions functionally, as executive states: intentions are mental states that represent an action and tend to cause this action. In the philosophical tradition (e.g. for Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Leibniz, Kant) another function of intentions, which may be called “volitive”, played a much more prominent role: intentions are mental states that represent what kind of actions we want and prefer to be realised and thus, in a possibly rational way, synthesise our motivational, desiderative, and perhaps affective as well as cognitive attitudes towards this action. This paper argues that intentions must fulfil both functions and then develops a concept of ‘intention’ that integrates both functions. One reason for including the volitive function in the definition of ‘intention’ is that only via this function the value of actions as such is realised, namely to enable the person, the kernel of the self to express herself and to control the world. Various forms of dissociation of the two functions are discussed and a proposal how to deal with such cases in the definition of ‘intention’ is developed.

Keywords

Intention Functions of intentions Executive function Volitive function Dissociation of volition and execution Michael Bratman Alfred Mele 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank an anonymous referee for very valuable suggestions and the participants at the presentation of this paper during the XXII. Deutscher Kongress für Philosophie in Munich for their inspiring discussion.

References

  1. Adams, F. (1986). Intention and intentional action: The simple view. Mind and Language, 1, 281–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, F. (1994). Trying, desire, and desiring to try. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 24, 613–626.Google Scholar
  3. Adams, F. (2007). Trying with the hope. In M. Timmons, J. Greco, & A. Mele (Eds.), Rationality and the good (pp. 143–162). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Adams, F., & Mele, A. (1989). The role of intention in intentional action. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 19, 511–531.Google Scholar
  5. Adams, F., & Mele, A. (1992). The intention/volition debate. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 22, 323–338.Google Scholar
  6. Aristotle (E.N.). Nicomachean ethics (transl. by W. D. Ross, revised by J. O. Urmson). In: J. Barnes (Ed.), Aristotle: The complete works of Aristotle. The revised Oxford translation, Vol 2 (pp. 1729–1867). Princeton: Princeton University Press 1984.Google Scholar
  7. Brand, M. (1984). Intending and acting. Toward a naturalized action theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bratman, M. E. (1987). Intention, plans, and practical reason. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Davidson, D. (1978/1980). Intending. In: idem, Essays on actions and events (pp. 83–102). Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  10. Goldman, A. I. (1976). The volitional theory revisited. In M. Brand, D. Walton (Eds.), Action theory. Proceedings of the Winnipeg Conference on Human Action, held at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 9–11 May 1975 (pp. 67–84). Dordrecht, Boston: Reidel.Google Scholar
  11. Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions. Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54, 493–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Harman, G. (1976/1997). Practical reasoning. Review of metaphysics, 29 (1976), 431–463. – Reprinted in: A. R. Mele (Ed.), The philosophy of action (149–177). Oxford: Oxford University Press 1997.Google Scholar
  13. Harman, G. (1986). Willing and intending. In: R. E. Grandy and R. Warner (Eds.), Philosophical grounds of rationality (363–380). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hume, D. (1739–40/1978). A treatise of human nature. Ed. with an Analytical Index by L. A. Selby-Bigge 2nd ed. with text revised and variant readings by P. H. Nidditch. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  15. Kant, I. (Groundwork): Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten. In: idem, Kants Werke. Akademie-Textausgabe (Vol. 4, pp. 385–464). Berlin: de Gruyter 1903. – Engl. translation: Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Edited and translated by T. E. Hill and A. Zweig. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2003.Google Scholar
  16. Kant, I. (MM): Metaphysik der Sitten. In: idem: Kants Werke. Akademie-Textausgabe (Vol. 6, pp. 203–494). Berlin: de Gruyter 1907. – Engl. translation: The metaphysics of morals. Introduction, translation, and notes by M. Gregor. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press 1991.Google Scholar
  17. Leibniz, G. W. (1704/1996): Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain. (1704; 1765.) In: idem: Philosophische Schriften. Ed. and transl. by W. von Engelhardt and H. H. Holz (Bd. III, in zwei Teilbänden). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1959; 2nd ed. 1985. – Engl. translation: New essays on human understanding. Translated and edited by P. Remnant and J. Bennett. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press 1996.Google Scholar
  18. Locke, J. (1689/2004). An essay concerning human understanding. (Ed. by A. C. Fraser, Introduction by W. R. Ott). New York: Barnes & Noble.Google Scholar
  19. Lumer, C. (2005). Intentions are optimality beliefs—but optimizing what?. Erkenntnis, 62, 235–262.Google Scholar
  20. Lumer, C. (2012). Tre tipi di teorie filosofiche. (Three types of philosophical theories.) In: R. Davies (Ed.): Analisi. Annuario e Bollettino della Società Italiana di Filosofia Analitica (SIFA) 2011 (45–75). Milan; Udine: Mimesis.Google Scholar
  21. McCann, H. (1995). Intention and motivational strength. Journal of Philosophical Research, 20, 571–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McCann, H. (1998). The works of agency. On human action, will, and freedom. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Melden, A. I. (1961). Free action. London; New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul; Humanities Press.Google Scholar
  24. Mele, A. R. (1992). Springs of action. Understanding intentional behavior. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Mele, A. R. (2009). Intention and intentional action. In: B. McLaughlin, A. Beckermann and S. Walter (Eds.), Oxford handbook of philosophy of mind (pp. 691–710). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Mele, A. R. (2010). Intention. In: T. O’Connor; C. Sandis (Eds.), A companion to the philosophy of action (pp. 108–113). Malden, MA; Oxford: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. Nagel, T. (1986). The view from nowhere. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Thomas de Aquino (S.T.). Summa theologiae. In: idem: Opera omnia. Iussu Leonis XIII edita. Ed. by Ordo Fratrum Praedicatorum. Vols. 4–12. Ed. by T. Cajetan. Rome: Comissio Leonina 1888–1906. – English translation: Thomas Aquinas: The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Second and Revised Edition, 1920. – Online Edition 2008 by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/index.html. Accessed 5 Nov 2012.
  29. Tuomela, R. (1977). Human action and its explanation. A study on the philosophical foundations of psychology. Dordrecht; Boston: Reidel.Google Scholar
  30. Velleman, J. D. (1992/2000). What happens when someone acts? Mind, 101, 461–481. Reprinted in: idem: The possibility of practical reason (pp. 123–143). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali, Politiche e CognitiveUniversità di SienaSienaItaly

Personalised recommendations