Intention, Belief, and Wishful Thinking: Setiya on “Practical Knowledge”

Ethics 119 (April 2009): 546–557

Sarah K. Paul

In “Practical Knowledge,” Kieran Setiya argues for the thesis that “forming an intention is forming a belief about what one is doing, or what one is going to do.” He then takes up what appears to be a curious consequence of this thesis: that intending turns out to be a matter of wishful thinking. After all, beliefs are the sort of attitude ordinarily held responsible to evidence for their truth. Intentions, on the other hand, are formed precisely when there is not sufficient evidence that one will perform the proposed action; if one did have sufficient evidence, the intention would be redundant. Rather, they are ordinarily formed out of a preference for performing that action and because one does not believe one will perform it absent the intention. The resulting view is that intending constitutively involves forming a belief out of a preference for its coming true and without sufficient prior evidence to support it. In other words, it requires what seems like wishful thinking.

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(Something interesting I found)Posted:Apr 01 2009, 12:00 AM by wattawa
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