Schwenkler’s Remark on Paul’s Inferential Theory of Practical Knowledge

Is Paul’s inferential view a viable response to the self-knowledge problem? One question is whether Paul fully preserves the first-personal/third-personal asymmetry that was emphasized at the beginning of this paper […]. For on an account like Paul’s while there will clearly be fundamental differences between your and my respective ways of knowing about my intentions, it appears that once that knowledge is in place, you may be in every bit as good a position as I am to know what I am doing on the basis of the knowledge of those intentions plus my general tendencies and the evident favorability of my circumstances: this is an inference that you are every bit as capable of making as I am, and it seems that you will be no less justified in it. But it seems as if it is knowledge of one’s actions, and not just of the intentions that underlie them, that ought to be characterized by first-personal privilege, and it is a significant defect of Paul’s position if it fails to ensure this.

Schwenkler, J. (2011) “Perception and Practical Knowledge”: p.143

I have a few remarks about Schwenkler’s remark about Sarah Paul’s view. Continue reading


Problem of Practical Knowledge is Problem of Infallibilism?

Both models face the problem that there appears to be an epistemic gap between having an intention and performing a certain intentional action. In each case, we have no difficulty with the idea that agents know their intentions without observation (by introspection), but the conclusion falls short of (AK), the claim that agents know their intentional actions without observation. (p.13)

[T]he gap might consist in the fact that the intention itself is conceived of as something that falls short of the whole intentional action. Here the intention would stand to an action as a sense-datum does to an object of perception. (p.13)

I have suggested that we could learn to live with a metaphysical gap between intentions and intentional actions by adopting a more fallibilist conception of agent’s knowledge. […] [A]wareness of one’s plan provide fallible evidence for thinking that one is acting as planned. (p.19)

Newstead, A. (2006) “Knowledge by Intention? On the Possibility of Agent’s Knowledge”

Anscombe believes that we, as agents, have non-observational knowledge of what we are doing. And such practical knowledge (or: agent’s knowledge, in Newstead’s terminology) is not just our knowledge of our own mental state, i.e., our intentions. It has long been debated how such kind of non-observational knowledge about our intentional actions is possible. Continue reading

Setiya on Practical Knowledge

The moral of these arguments is that we have a kind of knowledge of what we are doing intentionally, and of what we are going to do which is not the conclusion of an inference. It cannot be inferred from bodily movement, since we may not know in relevant, independent detail just how our body is moving — and in the prospective case, it need not be moving at all. It cannot be inferred from facts about our will, since that would make the presence of belief in intentional action contingent, which it is not. Rather, our knowledge of what we are doing, or what we are going to do, is constituted by our will: it is knowledge in intention. […] [F]orming an intention is forming a belief about what one is doing, or what one is going to do, but not by inference from sufficient prior evidence. […] As Grice complained in “Intention and Uncertainty,” it is as though having an intention were “a case of licensed wishful thinking.”

Setiya, K. (2008) “Practical Knowledge.” Ethics 118: p.397. (My underline)

Setting everything else aside, I have trouble understanding the underlined sentence. It is true that inferences are psychological processes that we perform only contingently. But that does not entail that an inference’s presence in an intentional action is contingent as well. So, I am not sure Setiya has presented a proper objection against the view that our practical knowledge is based on an inference from (introspectively available) facts about our will/intention.