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Deadline: 15 June 2020

Editorial Information

Guest Editors:
Line Ryberg Ingerslev, University of Wuerzburg
Karl Mertens, University of Wuerzburg



Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology

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Shaping Actions and Intentions

Questions concerning how intentions and actions are shaped over time and how they are attributed to agents are relevant for our understanding of the cases where an activity is not in the foreground of an agent’s awareness, and where a doing is not experienced as emanating from a prior or concurrent intention. These cases are distinct from the archetypical idea of an action as something done intentionally and known under some rational description. The goal of the special issue is to investigate how we explain the formation and unification of actions that fall within this extended field of actions.

If we accept the extended field of what characterizes an action, we face the following problem. According to the standard theory, ‘actions’ are characterized as doings that are (i) carried out over time, and (ii) unified by an intention that is known to the agent under some description. An intention is conceived as something for which the agent can provide reasons. Therefore, actions can be distinguished from other kinds of doings, particularly from mere behaviour, such as bodily reflexes and automatic doings, which are not unified by an intention. Yet, according to the standard theory of action, intentions, practical reasoning and the interpretative principle of charity help us account for the generation of actions, of how they are shaped over time and of post-factum attribution. But, granted the extended field of action, we must also be able to account for cases where intentions are weakened or inaccessible for the agent. Therefore, a more encompassing theory of action should also aim at elucidating these cases, which could be done by discussing the role of notions such as ‘situation’, ‘phenomenological field’, ‘foreground-background of awareness’, ‘affordance’ and ‘motivation’, etc., and by examining the function of our communicative practices for our understanding of actions and intentions.

The aim of the special issue is to address the formation of intention and action as they arise in a context and gradually become conscious from the agent’s perspective. Furthermore, with the special issue we address the possible insights an agent might have in her intention in such cases and, thus, investigate whether there are particular forms of self-experience, self-understanding, and self-knowledge implied in becoming aware of one’s own intentions and actions. In addition, we question the relevance of social ascriptions for identifying such things as intentions and actions. How does communication about action influence our understanding of what constitutes an action; how does the agent assume ownership of something that she was not aware of while doing it; how do intentions emerge, and how do they relate to what falls out of our attention, to what is forgotten, to body memory, and to unconscious parts of our doings? We find analyses of these processes in phenomenology as well as in analytical philosophy.

Aiming to fill a gap in the current philosophy of action and to establish a fruitful exchange between different traditions, we particularly encourage contributions from phenomenology, analytical philosophy, phenomenological psychiatry, and philosophy of psychology.

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