Anscombe's Intention: A Guide

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


This book provides a careful, critical, and appropriately contextualized presentation of the main lines of argument in G.E.M. Anscombe’s seminal book, Intention, at a level appropriate to the advanced undergraduate but also capable of benefiting specialists in action theory, ethics, and the history of analytic philosophy. It begins by situating Anscombe’s project in relation to the controversy she initiated over the decision by the University of Oxford to award an honorary degree to Harry Truman, and the connection she saw between her Oxford colleagues’ willingness to excuse Truman’s murderous actions and the situation of moral philosophy at the time. It also documents many of the ways Anscombe drew on the thought of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Wittgenstein, as well as the points at which her argument engages with the work of then-contemporary authors, especially R.M. Hare and Gilbert Ryle. Against this background, the primary focus of the book is on presenting Anscombe’s arguments and assessing the plausibility and philosophical power of the position she develops. Topics that receive especially close attention include: Anscombe’s argument that the primary role of the concept of intention is in the description of what happens in the world, and not of an agent’s state of mind; her account of action as a teleological unity; the relation between rationalizing explanation and causal explanation; the difference between practical and theoretical reasoning; and the possibility of non-observational self-knowledge of what one intentionally does.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190052065
ISBN (Print)9780190052027
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • G.E.M. Anscombe
  • self-knowledge
  • Gilbert Ryle
  • R.M. Hare
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Aristotle
  • ethics
  • intention
  • action


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