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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Intentional Action Without Knowledge

Vekony, R., Mele, A. & Rose, D.
Synthese (2020).


In order to be doing something intentionally, must one know that one is doing it? Some philosophers have answered yes. Our aim is to test a version of this knowledge thesis, what we call the Knowledge/Awareness Thesis, or KAT. KAT states that an agent is doing something intentionally only if he knows that he is doing it or is aware that he is doing it. Here, using vignettes featuring skilled action and vignettes featuring habitual action, we provide evidence that, in various scenarios, a majority of non-specialists regard agents as intentionally doing things that the agents do not know they are doing and are not aware of doing. This puts pressure on proponents of KAT and leaves it to them to find a way these results can coexist with KAT.


Our aim was to evaluate KAT empirically. We found that majority responses to our vignettes
are at odds with KAT. Our results show that, on an ordinary view of matters, neither knowledge nor
awareness of doing something is necessary for doing it intentionally. We tested cases of skilled action
and habitual action, and we found that, for both, people ascribed intentionality to an action at an
appreciably higher rate than knowledge and awareness.

The research is here.