Abstract

It is argued that the primary purpose of action ascription is to serve our abiding critical interests in explaining and evaluating one another qua rational agents. Thus, the action concepts, which include action itself, intentionality, the various forms of unintentionality including mistake, accident, and inadvertence, and freedom, compulsion, and akrasia, are best seen as diagnostic concepts whose function in ascription, therefore, is to explain cases of action in agency terms sufficiently fine-grained to allow evaluation according to our standards of rational agency. This conception of the role of action ascription provides a measure for evaluating competing theories of action and agency: that theory is to be preferred which, other things being equal, better serves our critical explanatory and evaluative interests in one another qua rational agents. Moreover, a theory that distinguishes among preferred forms of agency and action and the variety of agency dysfunctions to which rational agents are susceptible would allow such dysfunctions to be directly addressed by whatever tools we may fashion for their correction, and is so to be preferred to a theory that would mask such distinctions. The problem of akrasia is then discussed within this context.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3303
Print ISSN
1071-6076
Pages
pp. 107-119
Launched on MUSE
2000-06-01
Open Access
No
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