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Success and Knowledge in Action

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)
Author KneerMarkus,
Project Reading Guilty Minds
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Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)

Book Context Dependence in Language, Action, and Cognition
Editor , Garbarczyk Pawel; , Ciecierski Tadeusz
Publisher De Gruyter, Berlin
Page(s) 129
ISBN 978-3110702071
Title of proceedings Context Dependence in Language, Action, and Cognition

Open Access

Type of Open Access Green OA Embargo (Freely available via Repository after an embargo)


According to Anscombe, acting intentionally entails knowledge in ac- tion. This thesis has been near-universally rejected due to a well-known counter- example by Davidson: a man intending to make ten legible carbon copies might not believe with confidence, and hence not know, that he will succeed. If he does, however, his action surely counts as intentional. Damaging as it seems, an even more powerful objection can be levelled against Anscombe: while act- ing, there is as yet no fact of the matter as to whether the agent will succeed. Since his belief that he will is not yet true while his action is in progress, he can- not possibly know that he is indeed bringing about the intended goal. Knowl- edge in action is not only unnecessary for intentional action, it seems, but im- possible to attain in the first place. In this paper I argue that traditional strategies to counter these objections are unsatisfactory and propose a new account of knowledge in action which has two core features: (i) It invokes an externalist conception of justification which not only meets Davidson’s challenge, but also casts doubts on the tacit internalist premise on which his example relies. (ii) Drawing on recent work about future contingents by John MacFarlane, the proposed account conceives of claims to knowledge in action as assessment-sensitive so as to overcome the factivity objection. From a retrospective point of evaluation, previous claims about future events and actions can not only be deemed as having been true, but also as having been known.