Do Intentions Set Up Rational Defaults? Commitments, Reasons, and the Diachronic Dimension of Rationality

Research paper by Jens Gillessen

Indexed on: 09 Mar '16Published on: 19 Nov '15Published in: Pacific Philosophical Quarterly


Suppose that you do not do what you have previously decided to do. Are you to be charged with irrationality? A number of otherwise divergent theories of practical rationality hold that by default, you are; there are rational pressures, it is claimed, that favor the long‐term stability and eventual execution of distal intentions. The article challenges this view by examining how these purported pressures can be spelled out. Is intention a normative commitment to act? Are intentions reasons for action – or at least for retaining one's intention until the time to act has come? Or is the rationality of ‘doing as you decide’ governed by diachronic wide‐scope norms, as Michael Bratman and John Broome suggest? All of these approaches are shown to raise severe problems, which suggests a more modest view: diachronic pressures on intending are at each point in time confined to the very next instant.