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The Nature of Intention

Percival, GA; (2014) The Nature of Intention. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Imagine you face the following choice: either spending the evening at a party, or going to the library and continuing with the paper you have been working on. You have been working hard recently and have a strong desire to go to the party. On the other hand, you have an important deadline coming up and need to make progress with the paper. Whichever way you decide, once the decision is made you will enter into new kind of state, adopting a particular kind of attitude towards your own future. This is the state of intention. What is the nature of this state? The central thesis that I argue for is that intention is a primitive and irreducible mental state, non-analyzable in terms of any other, supposedly more basic, folk-psychological states or attitudes, or combination thereof, such as desire and belief. However, while I argue that intentions are primitive and irreducible, I do not adopt a position of quietism about intentions. I do believe that there are interesting things to be said about what intentions are. I make two important further claims about intention. One is that intention is a state that, like belief, has an aim. However, whereas the aim of belief is knowledge, the aim of intention is self-control, or determining what one will do in the future. I argue that it is the fact that intention aims at self-control that explains certain distinctive normative features of intention that distinguish intention from desire and belief. The other claim is that intention is a kind of disposition – the disposition of an agent to pursue an aim or goal. I argue that this explains certain distinctive causal and descriptive features of intention that distinguish it from desire and belief.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Nature of Intention
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1417800
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