Saturday, August 3, 2019

Intention Consists of Belief, Intention Does Not Entail Belief :: Philosophy Essays

Intention Consists of Belief, Intention Does Not Entail Belief In this paper, we will discuss both Gilbert Harman’s and J. David Velleman’s theories of intentions. The central dispute between their two theories of intention is that Harman holds that intention entails belief, while Velleman holds that intention consists of belief. Velleman constructs a model of intention in which intention consists of belief in order to explain the apparent spontaneity of an agent’s self-knowledge. Harman, on the other hand, rejects the thesis that intention consists of belief because of an example involving an insomniac. My goal in this paper is to show how Velleman’s theory of intention can avoid the problem posed by the case of the insomniac. The conclusion will then be that Velleman’s theory is more plausible than Harman’s, because it is able to successfully explain more about our commonsense observations of agents, namely, how an agent’s self-knowledge is spontaneous. In Harman’s model, intention entails belief in that when one intends to A one believes that one will A. According to Harman, intentions are the result of practical reasoning and beliefs are the result of theoretical reasoning. For example, if I intend to write this paper, I must know that it is within my power to write this paper. Since knowing involves believing, I therefore must believe that I will write this paper in order to intend to write this paper. Thus, one comes to have a belief that one can do something, such as the ability to write a paper, as the result of theoretical reasoning, while one comes to have an intention, like writing a paper, as the result of practical reasoning. Simply put, the process goes as follows: practical reasoning forms intentions dependent upon the conclusions (beliefs) of theoretical reasoning. Now that we have an understanding about how intentions are formed in Harman, it is necessary to discuss what he thinks makes an intention an intention. According to Harman, an "‘act’ of forming an intention is always a means to end" (Harman, 157). Stated another way, an intention is always a way of doing something else. This feature of intentions is what leads Harman to conclude that intentions are self-referential, in the sense that one must intend to intend. That is, one always forms an intention intentionally. An important feature of intentions that Harman derives from this observation is that intentions are a means of guaranteeing that an agent will act in a particular way.

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