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Intention in Action

The Philosophy of G. E. M. Anscombe


Pathiaraj Rayappan

G. E. M. Anscombe was one of the important philosophers of the twentieth century. Her most famous works are Intention and Modern Moral Philosophy and have given origin to the new branch called Philosophy of Action and have been an impetus for the revival of Virtue Ethics. This book studies G. E. M. Anscombe’s evaluation of moral theories and moral actions based on her findings in Philosophical Psychology. The author argues that a moral evaluation solely from the point of view of intention is insufficient and looks for a way in which this insufficiency can be overcome. Taking inspiration from Martin Rhonheimer, he finds a way to overcome this insufficiency through concepts such as the moral object, the anthropological truth of man and the practical reason, which are other essential elements to be considered in moral evaluation in addition to intention.


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Chapter Two Anscombe’s Analysis of Intention 63


63 Chapter Two Anscombe’s Analysis of Intention In this chapter we shall present Anscombe’s analysis of intention as it appears in her writings, especially in Intention.1 We shall begin by giv- ing a the general scheme of the book Intention. Threefold division of intention (§1) Expressions of intention (§2–§4) Expressions of intention and prediction (§2) Definition of expressions of intention (§3–§4) Intentional action (§5–§21) Definition (§5) Instances where ‘why?’ is refused application (§6–§11) “I was not aware I was doing that”; Intentional under a descrip- tion (§6) “It was involuntary” (§7) Involuntary: known without observation (§8) Its difference from mental causality (§9–§11) Instances where ‘why?’ is given application (§12–§15) “I was curious to find out” (§12–§13) “I study to become a doctor” (§13) “He killed my father” (§14) “Because he told me to” (§15) Instances where ‘why?’ has and yet has not application (§17–§18) “For no particular reason” (§17–§18) Intention in Intentional Action (§19–§21) Not an extra feature (§19) Necessity of intention for intentional actions (§20) Intention and the last end (§21) 1 G. E. M. Anscombe, Intention (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 19792). The references to this work will mention the article numbers with the paragraph numbers in super- script such as §22. 64 Intention-with-which (§22–§27) Statement of a future state of affairs (§22) Wider description of what one is doing (§23) Problem of the description: One or many actions? (§23) Two difficulties: Pumping is an act...

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