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Durham University

The Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Andy Hamilton

Hamilton, Andy (2008). 'Intention and the Authority of Avowals'. Philosophical Explorations 11(1): 23-37.

Author(s) from Durham


There is a common assumption that intention is a complex behavioural disposition, or a motivational state underlying such a disposition. Associated with this position is the apparently commonsense view that an avowal of intention is a direct report of an inner motivational state, and indirectly an expression of a belief that it is likely that one will A. A central claim of this article is that the dispositional or motivational model is mistaken since it cannot acknowledge either the future-direction of intention or the authority of avowals of intention. I argue that avowals of intention - first-person, present-tense ascriptions - express direct knowledge of a future action, knowledge that is not based on examination of one's present introspectible states or dispositions. Such avowals concern a future action, not a present state or disposition; just as self-ascriptions of belief concern the outer not the inner, so self-ascriptions of intention concern the future outer, not the present inner. One way of capturing this future-direction is to say that avowals of intention – and perhaps sense intentions themselves – are a kind of prediction, and not a description of one's present state of mind. This position is suggested by Anscombe in her monograph Intention, and treats avowals of intention as judgments about the future, which unlike ordinary predictions are not based on evidence. An alternative though clumsier description would be "the future-outer thesis of intention". I defend this thesis against objections that it ignores the different directions of fit with the world exhibited by belief and intention, and argue that it complements Anscombe's characterisation of intentions as based on reasons.