Acting Intentionally and Acting for a Reason
Inquiry, 52, (3), . (doi:10.1080/00201740902917168).
This paper explores the question whether whatever is done intentionally is done for a reason. Apart from helping us to think about those concepts, the question is interesting because it affords an opportunity to identify a number of misconceptions about reasons. In the paper I argue that there are things that are done intentionally but not done for a reason. I examine two different kinds of example: things done “because one wants to” and “purely expressive actions”.
Concerning the first, I argue that the tendency to think that things done because one wants to are things done for a reason derives from conflating the reason that explains why someone did something with their reason for doing it. While these sometimes coincide, they need not always do so. And although the fact that someone wanted to do something can contribute to explaining the person’s action, it is not normally that person’s reason for doing that thing.
Purely expressive actions also provide examples of things done intentionally but not for a reason. I argue that, although those actions are spontaneous, they are nonetheless intentional and that, since they are mere expressions of emotions, they are not done for reasons – although there are reasons why we do them.
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