Self Understanding
Velleman (David)
Source: Velleman - Practical Reflection, 1989, Chapter 1
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. You are walking up Fifth Avenue. All of a sudden you realize that you don't know what you're doing. You can see that you're walking up Fifth Avenue, of course: the surroundings are quite familiar. But the reason why you're walking up Fifth Avenue escapes you, and so you still don't know what you're doing. Are you walking home from work? Trying to catch a downtown bus? Just taking a stroll? You stop to think.
  2. I assume that you have gone through moments like this, when your own conduct perplexes you -- when you stop and ask yourself, "What am I doing?" These moments of reflective puzzlement are rare, of course, but they are revealing. How you behave in moments of reflective puzzlement sheds light, first of all, on why such moments are so rare -- why you almost always know what you're doing. More importantly, your response to reflective puzzlement illuminates the nature of rational agency, by shedding light on a hitherto neglected connection between reasoning and action.
  3. I shall thus draw two morals from my story about your walk up Fifth Avenue. The ultimate moral of the story, which won't begin to emerge until chapter 3, will be that practical reasoning is a kind of theoretical reasoning, and that practical conclusions, or intentions, are the corresponding theoretical conclusions, or beliefs. The kind of theoretical reasoning that I shall identify as practical is the kind that you are struggling with in my story when you reflect on why you're walking up Fifth Avenue. In order to demonstrate the practical nature of such reflection, however, I shall have to draw another moral, about the peculiar way in which reflective reasoning works. I shall therefore begin, in this chapter and the next, by examining how you usually come to know what you're doing.

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