Intentions in Ecological Psychology: An Anscombean Proposal

Miguel Segundo-Ortin*, Annemarie Kalis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


According to ecological psychology, agency is a crucial feature of living organisms: therefore many ecological psychologists maintain that explaining agency is one of the core aims of the discipline. This paper aims to contribute to this goal by arguing that an ecological understanding of agency requires an account of intention. So far, intentions have not played a dominant role in ecological accounts of agency. The reluctance to integrate a notion of intention seems to be motivated by the widespread assumption that intentions should be understood as internal states with representational content. This assumption goes against two main tenets of ecological psychology: its anti-representationalist stance and its claim that perception is direct (in the sense of not being mediated by inferential processes). Ecological psychology thus needs a different answer to the question what intentions are. In this paper, we aim to show that Elizabeth Anscombe’s theory of intention can be fruitfully brought to bear on an ecological theory of agency. We will argue that Anscombe’s account can meet the two challenges of bringing intentions into the framework of ecological psychology: firstly it can explain what intentions are, if not representational states; and, secondly, it can show how our perception of affordances is guided by intention without undermining the idea of direct perception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69–89
Number of pages21
JournalReview of Philosophy and Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date9 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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