Date: Friday, 16 December
Title: Acting as a Way of Knowing the World
Abstract: Philosophers generally agree that agents bear a special epistemic relation to their own intentional actions. But what exactly does an agent know about her action by acting intentionally? The traditional two-factor account answers this question as follows: what an agent knows in virtue of acting intentionally is her intention, and what actually happens is known separately, by observation or inference. Against the traditional account I defend the view that what an agent knows in virtue of acting intentionally is what actually happens; acting intentionally is a way of knowing how things are outside of the mind and body. In this talk I do not argue for this view directly but by way of undermining the appeal of the traditional account. I focus on the reasons provided by epistemologists of action in favor of the two-factor approach. I show that what motivates the traditional account is a genuine difficulty of giving a unified analysis of two important, but seemingly incompatible, features of knowing by acting: immediacy and fallibility. Then I argue that these features are not specific to an agent’s knowledge of her actions; in fact they are the necessary features of our epistemic activities in general, and they are no easier to account for in the case of perception. I conclude that the two puzzling features of an agent’s knowledge do not by themselves give us a reason to deny that action is, in its own right, a way of knowing the world.