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Moral Writings$
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H. A. Prichard and Jim MacAdam

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199250196

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199250197.001.0001

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Acting, Willing, Desiring

Acting, Willing, Desiring

(p.272) 16. Acting, Willing, Desiring
Moral Writings

H. A. Prichard

Oxford University Press

To the question ‘What does it mean to act or to do something?’, replies that it is not easy to identify a common character in actions. Begins by examining the position of Cook Wilson, who maintains that ‘to do something’ means to originate, cause, or bring into existence, either directly or indirectly, some not yet existing state either in oneself or some other body. Although Prichard agrees that usually action involves causing something, he observes that causing a change is not itself an activity (even though causing a change may require an activity). In moving one's hand, one performs that indefinable mental activity of willing some change. The movement of the hand is the effect of the action, not the action itself, a fact overlooked by thinkers like Locke. Turning to the nature of the desire behind one's willing, Prichard rejects the view that this desire is actually a desire for the change willed. Despite forceful objections, Prichard maintains that this desire is the desire for the willing of that change.

Keywords:   act, action, cause, change, desire, effect, Locke, state, willing

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