Trying and Acting

Brian O'Shaughnessy

in Mental Actions

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780199225989
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191710339 | DOI:
Trying and Acting

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The general rule that whenever we act we try to do something, applies without exception to bodily actions. This is because in the case of bodily actions when we say ‘A did X’ we distinguish a ‘movement of the will’ from the event X, which the action is the active generation of. This non-identity between the ‘movement of the will’ by the agent and the event X allows for the possibility of trying and failing and for the omnipresence of trying. This chapter argues that for some kinds of mental actions, for example the mental action of silently talking to oneself, this general rule breaks down: there are ‘movements of the will’ with no distinct product, no event the action is the active generation of. Therefore, while it is universal that all action involves the operation of the will, not all willings are tryings.

Keywords: trying; movement of the will; bodily action; mental action; failure; producing; talking to oneself

Chapter.  5396 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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