Date of Award

May 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Luca Ferrero

Committee Members

Edward S. Hinchman, Joshua Spencer


Action Theory, Anscombe, Intention, Michael Bratman, Michael Thompson, Practical Reason


This paper attempts to bridge the divide between action theorists who work in a conceptual terrain shaped primarily by Donald Davidson and Michael Bratman and action theorists who work in a conceptual terrain shaped primarily by G.E.M. Anscombe. In it, I consider a feature of action that has only been discussed by the Anscombe camp: the means-end structure of actions in their unfolding over time. Then, I draw out an implication of this feature: that actions can involve structure which is logically complex (that is, can involve means taken to a logically complex end). Next, I argue that numerous arguments made by philosophers in the Davidson-Bratman camp involve the tacit assumption that this is false, considering four such arguments--by Bratman, Kieran Setiya, Hugh McCann, and Richard Holton--in some detail. Given that structure is a neutral desideratum that any theory of action should account for, I argue that this assumption renders these arguments faulty and is evidence that these philosophers' inattention to structure has radically circumscribed the conceptual space in which they operate. I conclude with some lessons about the importance of future exchanges between these two camps of action theorists.

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