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Intention 2nd ed. Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674003996
ISBN-10: 0674003993
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Anscombe's classic work is the font from which all subsequent philosophical thought about agency flows. (Robert B. Brandom, University of Pittsburgh)

What Anscombe has done is to cut through a whole mess of philosophical clichés, and to give us a fresh, detailed picture of the concept of an action, and of related notions such as that of a reason for acting―and this in a way which brings out clearly the sources of a host of philosophical muddles in which one can find oneself in dealing with these concepts. To have done that is to have made a significant contribution to philosophy. (Judith Jarvis Thomson Journal of Philosophy)

Anscombe's Intention is the most important treatment of action since Aristotle. (Donald Davidson, University of California, Berkeley)

Intention opened for philosophical exploration a territory of thought, and laid out the swamps and thickets capable of trapping unwary philosophers. It is still an indispensable guide. (Cora Diamond, University of Virginia)

Anscombe's fusion of the Aristotelian and analytical traditions is one of the highest peaks of 20th century philosophy; it has lost none of its power to destroy philosophical complacency and excite new philosophical thought. (Michael Thompson, University of Pittsburgh)

Often quoted, sometimes read, rarely understood, Anscombe's Intention is nevertheless the defining moment in 20th-century philosophy of action. (J. David Velleman, University of Michigan)

Intention is a classic of modern philosophical psychology. It is unashamedly Wittgensteinian in organization and style--and Wittgensteinian too in its breaking of new ground and unerring sense of a new question, an unnoticed connection, an unexamined assumption. The freshness and intensity of the writing remain most impressive. (Crispin Wright, University of St. Andrews)

Elizabeth Anscombe's Intention is an extraordinary work: with penetrating acumen, delightfully dry wit, and not a single wasted breath, over the course of less than a hundred pages, it manages to make signal contributions to the philosophy of action, mind, and language, to moral philosophy, and to the interpretation of Aristotle and Wittgenstein. (James Conant)

From the Back Cover

Intention is one of the masterworks of twentieth-century philosophy in English. First published in 1957, it has acquired the status of a modern philosophical classic. The book attempts to show in detail that the natural and widely accepted picture of what we mean by an intention gives rise to insoluble problems and must be abandoned. This is a welcome reprint of a book that continues to grow in importance.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 106 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 2nd ed. edition (October 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674003993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674003996
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gerald J. Nora on April 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
G.E.M. Anscombe, a student of Wittgenstein, uses an approach that is reminsicent of her old teacher by dividing her book into individual reflections on aspects of what it means to intend to do something. This method invites the reader to meditate on this topic and does a powerful job to help one realize what a mystery intention is, and shows just how much depth there is to human action and interpersonal relations. Anscombe, who just died earlier in 2001, is rightfully considered one of the greatest English speaking philosophers of the 20th century, and this work is a magnificent example of her genius.
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A political philosopher friend of mine who dotes on Richard Rorty, John Dewey, and- least impressive of all- Daniel Dennett, calls Intention, "Anscombes crummy little book.". That may rank as one of the most wrongheaded reviews of all time. On a quick, superficial reading, Intention IS easy to dismiss with a shrug. However, a closer, slower reading reveals the extraordinary riches of this brief, brilliant, book. Anscombe was almost unique among twentieth century philosophers, in that she was a Plato and Aristotle scholar( First Class honors in "Greats" at Oxford.), who was also a student and disciple of wWittgenstein. In this remarkable book, Anscombe uses a Wittgensteinian mode and manner to approach Aristotelian (and Thomistic) themes in action theory. Intention is extraordinarily succinct and siffused with a remarkably dry, understated, wit. J.M Cameron once wrote that Anscombe wrote in a "dorian mode", without ruffles or flourishes. That is true. It is also true that she was a brilliant minaturist. Like the stories of her fellow Catholic Flannery O'Connor, Anscombe philosophical texts are akin to exqusitely crafted and detailed medieval ivories.
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It's a must for everyone who are living in the world which is dominated by the modern scientific worldview. Especially anyone who has a special interest in the nature of action and intention and ethics shouid read it. The essential theme is "practical knowledge". We are doers in a real world. We are neither mere spectators in the world nor immaterial ghosts wrapped in an inner world always willing but never action.
One of the the five best books that I've read in philosophy. Highly recommended. Caveat: This book is extremly difficult to understand at one reading so you shoul read it over and over again.
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G. E. M. Anscombe contended that one could not properly engage in ethics (the doing of moral philosophy) if one had not already developed a suitable analysis of the concept of intentions. Intentions underlie and, aparently, underwrite human activity, at least a great deal of it and it is the intention of the human agent that gives itself to moral evaluation. We don't judge involuntary or reflex or coerced actions in terms of their rightness or wrongness, after all, but retain such judging for those acts which we think about and choose to do for reasons. But the concept of intention is an odd one as Anscombe demonstrates in the first half of this ninety four page monograph. Approaching the issue in terms reminiscent of the later Wittgenstein (her teacher and mentor), Anscombe undertakes a conceptual analysis of how we use the term "intention." It's a bit dry and can be rather didactic and abstract as she proceeds to offer examples like what we mean when we ask questions like "why are you X-ing" and after a while one's eyes can glaze over. I'm fascinated by this stuff but even I found myself nodding off with all the abstract examples she presents. Yet the examples are salient and useful as she unravels the way in which our concept of intention informs our treatment of different kinds of actions and what kind of thing intentions are. They aren't things at all, she ultimately concludes. The term is, rather, a way we have of describing certain kinds of actions, the kinds that lend themselves to moral evaluation.

In the second part of the book she begins to offer the interesting observations that make the book significant, taking us beyond the first level analysis of how we use the relevant terms (like "intention) for certain kinds of human behavior but not others.
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I was introduced to Elizabeth Anscombe's *Intention* in a class I took as an undergraduate with one of the other reviewers, Jerry Nora, and I thought it was bunk; surely there was a wealth of thought about human action available ca. 1957, say *Toward a General Theory of Action*, which Anscombe was dismissing out of hand in this short work. Shows what I knew. Donald Davidson famously exclaimed *Intention* was "The most important treatment of action since Aristotle", and he and many others who would contribute to the fairly narrowly-construed subdiscipline 'philosophy of action' owed a great deal to Anscombe's analysis of events being "intentional under a description". However, if you expand your horizons a little beyond the "accordion effect", Anscombe's book reveals itself to be one of the most telling works of "Wittgensteinian" philosophy. This last item is hardly surprising: Anscombe is famous for translating Wittgenstein's *Philosophical Investigations* and generally palling around with him at the end of his life. He called her "Old Man"; surely this "Old Man" knew something worth relating about how to pursue L.W.'s insights further.

If we keep this in mind, the 100 pages of *Intention* become even more exciting as a philosophical monograph. The concepts of Wittgenstein's later philosophy can induce a kind of heady disorientation, enough to convince many people (as Wittgenstein often personally advised folks to do) to "quietistically" let philosophy alone. However, if you must analyze a topic philosophically, a Wittgensteinian like Anscombe knows to look very, very carefully at the language used to describe the philosophical concepts under consideration.
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