PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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The Puzzle of Skilled Behavior

The puzzle of skilled behavior is that of determining whether and how it counts as a form of intentional action. Although skilled behavior seems more deeply agent-involving than other behaviors, making it seem the perfect candidate for intentional behavior, it also seems sometimes to proceed without and despite the agent, giving it qualities of unintentional and automatic behavior. In this paper I review the puzzle of skilled behavior and some attempted solutions to the puzzle, before presenting my own solution: the puzzle of skilled behavior calls for us to distinguish two types of control, rational control and expert control, both of which allow for intentional action. The natural tension between these forms of control, at its most extreme for highly skilled activities, explains the tension felt in the case of skilled behavior. Along the way I will discuss the case of choking and the empirical research on this phenomenon to draw out the puzzle.

Author Information:

Carolyn Dicey Jennings    
Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts
University of California, Merced


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