Anscombe's Intention: A Guide

ISBN : 9780190052034

John Schwenkler
248 ページ
140 x 140 mm

Written against the background of her controversial opposition to the University of Oxford's awarding of an honorary degree to Harry S. Truman, Elizabeth Anscombe's Intention laid the groundwork she thought necessary for a proper ethical evaluation of actions like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The devoutly Catholic Anscombe thought that these actions made Truman a murderer, and thus unworthy of the university's honor-but that this verdict depended on an understanding of intentional action that had been widely rejected in contemporary moral philosophy. Intention was her attempt to work out that understanding and argue for its superiority over a conception of intention as an inner mental state. Though recognized universally as one of the definitive works in analytic philosophy of action, Anscombe's book is often dismissed as unsystematic or obscure, and usually read through the lens of philosophical concerns very far from her own. Schwenkler's Guide offers a careful and critical presentation of Anscombe's main lines of argument at a level appropriate to advanced undergraduates but also capable of benefiting specialists in action theory, moral philosophy, and the history of analytic philosophy. Further, it situates Intention in a context that emphasizes Anscombe's debts to Aristotle, Aquinas, and Wittgenstein, and her engagement with the work of contemporaries like Gilbert Ryle and R.M. Hare, inviting new avenues of engagement with the ideas of historically important philosophers.


Introduction: The Project of Intention
Interpretive Precis
Outline of the Text
The Commentary
1 Preliminaries
1.1 The three headings (SC1)
1.2 Predictions and expressions of intention (SCSC2-3)
1.3 Action first (SCSC3-4)
1.4 Summary discussion
2 Beginnings of an Account
2.1 'Why?'-questions (SC5)
2.2 The three epistemic conditions (SCSC6-8)
2.3 Reason, motive, and cause (SCSC9-16)
2.4 'For no reason' / 'I don't know why I did it' (SCSC17-18)
2.5 Summary discussion
3 The Unity of Action
3.1 An extra feature? (SC19)
3.2 Further intention (SCSC20-21)
3.3 The A-D order (SCSC22-23, 26)
3.4 Intention and foresight (SCSC24-25, 27)
3.5 Summary discussion
4 Knowledge Without Observation
4.1 Raising difficulties (SC28)
4.2 False avenues of escape (SCSC29-30)
4.3 Beginning to sketch a solution (SCSC31-32)
4.4 Summary discussion
5 Practical Reasoning
5.1 A difference in form (SC33)
5.2 Calculation (SC33-35)
5.3 The role of 'wanting' (SCSC35-36)
5.4 The guise of the good (SC37-41)
5.5 '... an order which is there ...' (SCSC42-43)
5.6 Summary discussion
6 Practical Knowledge
6.1 The Thomistic background
6.2 'A form of description of events' (SCSC46-48)
6.3 The cause of what it understands (SCSC44-45, 48)
6.4 Doing without knowing?
6.5 Practical knowledge through perception?
6.6 Summary discussion
7 Concluding Discussion
7.1 Intentional and voluntary (SC49)
7.2 Intention for the future (SCSC50-52)
Glossary of Terms


John Schwenkler is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University, where he has taught since 2013. He specializes in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of action, ethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of cognitive science.