Acting, Willing, Desiring

H. A. Prichard

in Moral Writings

Published in print August 2002 | ISBN: 9780199250196
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598265 | DOI:

Series: British Moral Philosophers

 Acting, Willing, Desiring

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To the question ‘What does it mean to act or to do something?’, replies that it is not easy to identify a common character in actions. Begins by examining the position of Cook Wilson, who maintains that ‘to do something’ means to originate, cause, or bring into existence, either directly or indirectly, some not yet existing state either in oneself or some other body. Although Prichard agrees that usually action involves causing something, he observes that causing a change is not itself an activity (even though causing a change may require an activity). In moving one's hand, one performs that indefinable mental activity of willing some change. The movement of the hand is the effect of the action, not the action itself, a fact overlooked by thinkers like Locke. Turning to the nature of the desire behind one's willing, Prichard rejects the view that this desire is actually a desire for the change willed. Despite forceful objections, Prichard maintains that this desire is the desire for the willing of that change.

Keywords: act; action; cause; change; desire; effect; Locke; state; willing

Chapter.  5723 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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