[hist-analytic] Davidson's 'Under a description' Trick

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 31 13:00:21 EST 2009

Davidson says,

When I tie my shoelaces, there is on the one  hand the movement of my fingers, and on the other, the movement of the laces. But is it possible to separate these events by calling the first, alone, my action? What makes the separation a problem is that I do not seem able to describe or think how I move my fingers, apart from moving the laces. (AE p. 51)

But if I cannot describe how I move my fingers, then it can never be the case 
that I move them intentionally under one description but not another. We might 
argue, as Davidson does, that the intentionality of Hamlet’s killing Polonius 
is relative to a description, and so not an event of a natural kind, but we cannot 
argue that moving our fingers in such and such a way is not of a natural kind for 
the same reason, simply because there is no description available for 
substitution! So in the case of the most fundamental of actions, by Davidson’s 
own admission, relativity to a description is not a signature fact of attributions 
of intentionality.

Steve Bayne

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