Action, Knowledge, and Will

ISBN : 9780198769316

John Hyman
272 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Feb 2017
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What is the difference between the movements in our bodies we cause personally ourselves, such as the movements of our legs or our lips when we walk or speak, and the movements we do not cause personally, such as the contraction of the heart? Is an act that is done under duress done voluntarily, out of choice? Should duress exculpate a defendant completely, or should it merely mitigate the criminality of an act? When we explain an intentional act by stating our reasons for doing it, do we explain it causally or teleologically, or both? Should we care whether our choices are guided by knowledge or mere true belief? In Action, Knowledge, and Will, John Hyman explores these and other central problems in the philosophy of action and the theory of knowledge, and connects these areas of enquiry in a new way. The main premise of the book is that human action has four irreducibly different dimensions, each with its own family of concepts: - a physical dimension, in which the principal concepts are those of agent, power, and causation; - a psychological dimension, with the concepts of desire, aim, and intention; - an ethical dimension, with the concepts of voluntariness and choice; - an intellectual dimension, with the concepts of reason, knowledge, and belief. Studying each of these dimensions of human action separately yields a string of original results, culminating in a new analysis of the relationship between knowledge and rational behaviour, which provides the foundation for a new theory of knowledge itself.


1 Agency and the Will
2 Action and Integration
3 Acts and Events
4 Voluntariness and Choice
5 Desire and Intention
6 Reason and Knowledge
7 Knowledge as an Ability
8 The Road to Larissa
Appendix: The Modern Theory of the Will

About the author: 

John Hyman has been a Fellow of The Queen's College, Oxford since 1988 and Professor of Aesthetics in the University of Oxford since 2008. He has edited the British Journal of Aesthetics since 2008. He held a Getty Scholarship at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, in 2001-2002, a Fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2002-2003, and a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship in 2010-2012.

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