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Intention Paperback – 14 Sep 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 106 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 2nd edition (14 Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674003993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674003996
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.2 x 0.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


What Anscombe has done is to cut through a whole mess of philosophical cliches, 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

About the Author

G. E. M. Anscombe was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ann Gleeson on 10 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book follows a classical scheme of argument where the point is revealed at the end! It is, therefore, necessary to persevere to the end despite frequent bemusement. All is revealed through a process of demolishing the arguments of opponents and presenting a reply to them defending intentionality. Those interested in philosophy will recognise these views and be amused and filled with admiration at Anscombe's riposte. Intention is under attack in modern philosophy. This book shows how it is under attack and why it has to be defended.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Travis on 17 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book itself is a classic philosophical text and was what I expected. Her view on "intentionality" (in 1958) was original and, of course very much influenced by Wittgenstein. Anscombe writes in a very dense style. This is good but her work, therefore, commands careful reading. As a second hand book I would have expected to be warned that some text had been highlighted with a gem marker. This was not a problem but something to know before ordering. Surprised no receipt included.
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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Reflections on an oft-neglected subject 17 April 2001
By Gerald J. Nora - Published on Amazon.com
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.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
succinct work of concentrated genius 28 Dec. 2009
By Joseph A. Harder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Essential reading 5 Mar. 2005
By eudoxos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.
22 of 31 people found the following review helpful
WONDERFUL FUN 29 Nov. 2007
By Conan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I was a student of Anscombe's when she was a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, along with her spouse Peter Geach, circa 1980. I took a class on Wittgenstein from Anscombe and a class on Frege from Geach. Anscombe was a wonderfully friendly raconteur with dry wit and lofty memories of Wittgenstein, who apparently "blessed" her. For the class we used her book Intention, a great read and even better when read aloud by her. Geach's class was a frightening exercise in intimidation, as few of us were brave enough to even be in the room with him, much less have him lecture to us on Frege. I remember being the sole person in the class, and saying nothing for 12 weeks. Meanwhile Geach lectured at the board, completely ignoring me. From what I understand when they headed back to England they boarded the wrong plane and wound up in Mexico City. I did spend some time discussing McTaggart with Geach, and almost went abroad to write my dissertation with him on said, but was warned that he probably wouldn't remember me when I showed up.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The "Old Man" Lays Down the Law 14 Mar. 2004
By Jeffrey Rubard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I was introduced to *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 haughtily 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. To the untutored there may seem to be no difference between this and the "ordinary language philosophy" of, for example, J.L. Austin -- who also wrote on the philosophy of action -- but there are critical differences. Wittgensteinians do not regard "use" as the only criterion of what is interesting, but look at what he termed "grammar" -- how philosophical questions are genuinely intertwined around a particular word or piece of use. Wittgenstein's famous discussions of rule-following and so on need not be the end of such an activity.

Anscombe's book examines two pieces of such "philosophical grammar", centering on how a particular bit of human behavior can be termed an 'intentional action' and then how human beings can be said to execute what is classically termed the "practical syllogism", where knowledge and value join and become rational action: this second, later part of the book on practical reasoning receives less attention than the 'event ontology', but is the retroactive key to understanding the earlier parts of the book as something other than a sterile exercise in analytic metaphysics. Truly spoken, it is not that the "description" of an action automatically confers a rather meaningless plaudit of 'voluntary' to it: the description is a cheque which can be cashed as definitive proof of the human "care" for the world implicit in action -- a form of 'aboutness' handled in an excessively mentalistic manner by others. Similarly practical reason does not require a "pure will", but a directedness created by a "form of life" we live our lives in.

A valuable and accessible contribution to 20th century thought.
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