Future intentions, plans, and the problem of Buridan's Ass
Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/14745
Suppose that: 1. an agent, S, is able to choose only one option, x or y; 2. S prefers neither x nor y in comparison to the other; and 3. S prefers having at least one of x or y to having none.1 Call this “the problem of Buridan’s Ass.” A theory of practical reasoning is supposed to tell us what to do. Which option, x or y, should S choose? Which theory of practical reasoning tells S to choose that option? While we are capable of overcoming the above situation, it seems that our choosing to act did not rely upon a theory of practical reasoning. In response to the puzzle above, I show how Davidson’s theory faces a pair of difficulties, which are the result of his overly weak conception of the role of intentions and plans in practical reasoning. On one hand, Davidson’s theory seems unable to accommodate the possibility of a future intention in the face of equally desirable future options, and, on the other hand, his theory cannot ensure that rational intentions are agglomerative. Upon further inspection, however, it appears that Davidson’s theory is not an overly weak conception since he does seem to rule out the role of plans in practical reasoning. But even including plans in practical reasoning, as Bratman’s theory of intention does, fails to solve the seemingly insoluble problem of equipollent preference.