Donald Davidson

in Essays on Actions and Events

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246274
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191715198 | DOI:

Series: The Philosophical Essays of Donald Davidson (5 Volumes)


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This essay picks up where Essay 4 left off: how best to specify the desire and belief that rationalize and cause an action? A conjunction of desire and belief rationalize an action only when that action is suitably described; also, the desire must be expressed so that we can arrive at an action and to that end must be formulated as an explicit value judgement, says Davidson. He then proceeds to make precise the claim that rationalizing desires and beliefs must cause their action in the right as opposed to a ‘deviant’ way, i.e. the causal chain must proceed as the rationalization tells us. Davidson notes a further problem for his analysis in Essay 1: if I intend to do something but never get round to do it, my intention cannot be identified with an action it rationalizes and causes, and if I form an intention on the basis of no prior deliberative process, then I cannot identify it with any beliefs and desires I held at the time; either case seems to warrant reintroducing distinct intentions or ‘acts of will’ into our ontology. Investigating various entities they can be identified with––actions, beliefs that one will act, a form of wanting––Davidson identifies such ‘pure intendings’ as conditional value judgements and ordinary intentions as all‐out ones.

Keywords: all‐out value judgments; causal theory of action; condtional value judgements; desires expressed by value judgements; intending; pure intending; rationalization

Chapter.  9200 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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