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By Rowland Stout

ISBN-10: 1844653544

ISBN-13: 9781844653546

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Suppose a vandal smashes up a telephone box. It is not the case that a reason for smashing up the telephone box is that he is a vandal. Or at any rate, this would only be the case if the vandal were strangely self-conscious: “Look, your honour, I’m a vandal; I have to fulfil my nature and smash up telephone boxes. ” For the less self-conscious vandal the fact that he is a vandal is not part of the justification of what he does. But even for the less self-conscious vandal it is the case that one reason why he smashed up the telephone box is that he is a vandal.

A psychoanalyst observing the scene might observe that the person shouted at the stranger in order to frighten them and by so doing make themselves feel less defeated ACTING FOR A REASON 29 by their own anxiety and fear. However this sort of psychological rationalization does not really present the agent’s reasons for acting. It seems irrelevant to the question of whether the behaviour is intentional and expresses genuine agency whether or not there is a good psychoanalytic explanation available.

I come to realize this through a process of articulating a conception of who I was – what sort of person I was – and reorganizing my past goals and commitments in the light of this new and clearer self-conception. The process may require imagination as well as learning by experience what it is to be a certain sort of person. It is not merely a process of working through the implications of what I already wanted. But it is a process that is based on some preexisting motivational structure. ) would recommend that I work hard.

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Action by Rowland Stout


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