[SydPhil] SHAPE seminar, Philosophy Dept USYD: Fri May 2, 10.30am ­ Robert Dunn

David Macarthur david.macarthur at sydney.edu.au
Wed Apr 30 00:31:43 AEST 2014

This week’s SHAPE philosophy seminar will be presented by Assoc. Prof. Robert Dunn (Research Associate, Philosophy Dept).

The title of his talk is: “Self-Consciousness in Action and Self-Commitment”

In this paper, I set out an account of self-consciousness in action in the spirit of a reading of Elizabeth Anscombe’s book Intention. I develop this account in the light of related contributions by (among others) John McDowell, Wilfred Sellars, Robert Brandom, and Richard Moran. I argue for an adverbial thesis of self-consciousness in action, where the latter is understood as contained in the content of an intention in action being executed. We should think of self-consciousness in action as knowledge in intention that is held in a practically self-committing way. Such knowledge is not a reality distinct from what is known: knowledge in intention constitutes the object that it understands (a performance) as intentional under a certain description in fixing what counts as a correct performance, relative to the intention in action (practical self-commitment) that it is intrinsic to. I argue further that the taking-true involved in knowledge in intention should be distinguished from belief. In taking it to be true, in a practically self-committing way, that I am here and now doing something, I take a stand in a hybrid normative space. I make myself answerable to the world for the truth of what I take myself to be doing; however, what I take responsibility for, as agent, is, not that, but making true what I take myself to be here and now doing. Knowledge in intention, as Anscombe understands it, is intrinsic to non-defective exercises of our power of intentional agency. In Kantian terms (which Anscombe does not herself use) this power is our power of rational self-determination in action. We know in intention what we are doing in non-defective exercises of this power of practical reason because, in taking it to be true, with practically self-committing force, that we are here and now doing something, we are, in such cases, getting it right of necessity, from within the performance, what it is that we are up to.

Time: Fri May 2, 10.30am

Place: Muniment Room, S401 (under the central clock tower, level 1, Main Quad)


Dr. David Macarthur | Senior Lecturer & UG Coordinator
Philosophy Department, SOPHI | FASS
NSW, 2006 | Australia
Ph: +61 2 9351 3193

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