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\title {A Talk \\ Purposive Action from Motor Representation to Intention}

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# Purposive Action from Motor Representation to Intention

\def \ititle {Purposive Action from Motor Representation to Intention}
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‘for responsibility ascriptions in ethics as well as in penal law the concept of “intentional action” plays a dominant role. It is not clear, however, what is meant by saying that an action is intentional and why this should be so important for an evaluation of the action. In particular, one might wonder whether intentions should be construed as mental states. The latter question will be at the very focus of our workshop.’

‘the concept of “intentional action” plays a dominant role.

It is not clear, however, what is meant by saying that an action is intentional

In particular, one might wonder whether intentions should be construed as mental states.’

In my talk I want to explore the idea that we can make progress with these issues by thinking about some recent---and plenty of not so recent---scientific discoveries about action.
Any attempt to bring scientific discoveries about action into a philosophical discussion quickly runs into a significant obstacle ... [The obstacle will be apparently completely different way of thinking about action.]
Which events are actions?
In philosophy this question is typically answered by appeal to intention or practical reasoning.
One quite standard idea is that those events are actions which are appropriately related to an intention. Such views tend to be neutral on how the attitudes and processes ultimately connect to bodily movements; that is considered to be merely an implementation detail ...
They are neutral in this sense: the views do not depend in any way on facts about that distinguish one kind of body from another, or on facts about how the body’s movements are ultimately controlled ...
In cognitive science ... little to say about actions whose purposes involve things the motor system doesn’t care about---your motor system doesn’t care whether the plane you are stepping is headed for Milan or for Rome, but this sort of difference can affect whether your actions succeed or fail.

talking past each other?

You might just say that the two disciplines are talking past each other, or you might say that they are offering two complementary but independent models of action.
Call this the ‘Two Stories View’ (or divorced, but living together).
But we want to argue that these two views are components of a single, larger story about action. Although intention and motor representation can usefully be studied in isolation to some extent, a full understanding of action will require understanding interfaces between the two …
This, I suggest, will motivate thinking about intentions as mental states. To anticipate, I will take as a premise that (1) motor representations are mental states and argue that (2) some intentions cause action in part by virtue of bearing content-respecting causal relations to motor representations; this, I will suggest, supports the view that intentions are also mental states.

What is the relation between a purposive action and the outcome or outcomes to which it is directed?

As this illustrates, some actions involving are purposive in the sense that
among all their actual and possible consequences,
there are outcomes to which they are directed
and the actions are collectively directed to this outcome
so it is not just a matter of each individual action being directed to this outcome.
In such cases we can say that the actions are clearly purposive.
Concerning any such actions, we can ask What is the relation between a purposive action and the outcome or outcomes to which it is directed?
The standard answer to this question involves intention.
An intention (1) represents an outcome,
(2) coordinates the one or several activities which comprise the action;
and (3) coordinate these activities in a way that would normally facilitate the outcome’s occurrence.
What binds particular component actions together into larger purposive actions? It is the fact that these actions are all parts of plans involving a single intention. What singles out an actual or possible outcome as one to which the component actions are collectively directed? It is the fact that this outcome is represented by the intention.
So the intention is what binds component actions together into purposive actions and links the action taken as a whole to the outcomes to which they are directed.
But is intention the only thing that can link actions to outcomes? I will suggest that motor representations can likewise perform this role.

motor representations represent outcomes

Let me mention some almost uncontroversial facts about motor representations and their action-coordinating role.
Suppose you are a cook who needs to take an egg from its box, crack it and put it (except for the shell) into a bowl ready for beating into a carbonara sauce. Even for such mundane, routine actions, the constraints on adequate performance can vary significantly depending on subtle variations in context. For example, the position of a hot pan may require altering the trajectory along which the egg is transported, or time pressures may mean that the action must be performed unusually swiftly on this occasion. Further, many of the constraints on performance involve relations between actions occurring at different times. To illustrate, how tightly you need to grip the egg now depends, among other things, on the forces to which you will subject the egg in lifting it later. It turns out that people reliably grip objects such as eggs just tightly enough across a range of conditions in which the optimal tightness of grip varies. This indicates (along with much other evidence) that information about the cook’s anticipated future hand and arm movements appropriately influences how tightly she initially grips the egg (compare \citealp{kawato:1999_internal}). This anticipatory control of grasp, like several other features of action performance (\citealp[see][chapter 1]{rosenbaum:2010_human} for more examples), is not plausibly a consequence of mindless physiology, nor of intention and practical reasoning. This is one reason for postulating motor representations, which characteristically play a role in coordinating sequences of very small scale actions such as grasping an egg in order to lift it.
The scale of an actual action can be defined in terms of means-end relations. Given two actions which are related as means to ends by the processes and representations involved in their performance, the first is smaller in scale than the second just if the first is a means to the second. Generalising, we associate the scale of an actual action with the depth of the hierarchy of outcomes that are related to it by the transitive closure of the means-ends relation. Then, generalising further, a repeatable action (something that different agents might do independently on several occasions) is associated with a scale characteristic of the things people do when they perform that action. Given that actions such as cooking a meal or painting a house count as small-scale actions, actions such as grasping an egg or dipping a brush into a can of paint are very-small scale. Note that we do not stipulate a tight link between the very small scale and the motoric. In some cases intentions may play a role in coordinating sequences of very small scale purposive actions, and in some cases motor representations may concern actions which are not very small scale. The claim we wish to consider is only that, often enough, explaining the coordination of sequences of very small scale actions appears to involve representations but not, or not only, intentions. To a first approximation, \emph{motor representation} is a label for such representations.% \footnote{% Much more to be said about what motor representations are; for instance, see \citet{butterfill:2012_intention} for the view that motor representations can be distinguished by representational format. }
What do motor representations represent? An initially attractive, conservative view would be that they represent bodily configurations and joint displacements, or perhaps sequences of these, only. However there is now a significant body of evidence that some motor representations do not specify particular sequences of bodily configurations and joint displacements, but rather represent outcomes such as the grasping of an egg or the pressing of a switch. These are outcomes which might, on different occasions, involve very different bodily configurations and joint displacements (see \citealp{rizzolatti_functional_2010} for a selective review).
Such outcomes are abstract relative to bodily configurations and joint displacements in that there are many different ways of achieving them.
But how do we know that motor representations carry information about such outcomes? I’m glad you asked, let me explain ...

Markers of motor representation ...

The experiments providing such evidence typically involve a marker of motor representation, such as a pattern of neuronal firings, a motor evoked potential or a behavioural performance profile, which, in controlled settings, allows sameness or difference of motor representation to be distinguished. Such markers can be exploited to show that the sameness and difference of motor representation is linked to the sameness and difference of an outcome such as the grasping of a particular object. (Pioneering uses of this method include \citealp{rizzolatti:1988_functional,Rizzolatti:2001ug}; it has since been developed in many ways: see, for example, \citet{hamilton:2008_action, cattaneo:2009_representation, cattaneo:2010_state-dependent, rochat:2010_responses, bonini:2010_ventral, koch:2010_resonance}.) Although not decisive,% \footnote{% For further considerations, see \citet[pp.~143--6]{prinz:1997_perception} and \citet{pacherie:2008_action}. } this supports the view that some motor representations represent outcomes other than sequences of bodily configurations and joint displacements. As we will see, this view is foundational for much research on how motor processes coordinate action.

1. are unaffected by variations in kinematic features but not goals

2. are affected by variations in goals but not kinematic features

So: 3. carry information about goals (from 1,2)

Also

4. Information about outcomes guides planning-like processes ...

To illustrate, consider a sequence of actions which might be involved in shoplifting an apple: you have to secure the apple, transport it, and position it in your pocket. Each of these outcomes can be represented motorically.
Motor processes are planning-like in that they involve computing means from ends. Thus a representation of an end like securing it [the apple] can trigger a process that results in the representation of outcomes that are means to this end.
Motor processes are also planning-like in that which means are selected in preparing an action that will occur early in the sequence may affect needs that will arise only later in a later part of the actions. For instance, how the apple is grasped at an early point in the sequence may be determined in part by what would be a more comfortable way for the other hand to grasp it later.
So motor representations of outcomes guide planning-like processes. This is why I think it’s not just that they carry information about outcomes like grasping an apply, but that they also represent such outcomes.
Now as Elisabeth Pacherie has argued (and I’ve had a go at arguing this in joint work with Corrado Sinigaglia recently too), motor representations are relevantly similar to intentions. Of course motor representations differ from intentions in some important ways (as Pacherie also notes). But they are similar in the respects that matter for explaining the purposiveness of action. (1) Like intentions, some motor representations represent outcomes (and not merely patters of joint displacement, say). (2) Like intentions, some motor representations play a role in coordinating multiple more component activities by virtue of their role as elements in hierarchically structured plans. (3) And, like intentions, some motor representations coordinate these activities in a way that would normally facilitate the outcome’s occurrence. The claim is not that \emph{all} purposive actions are linked to outcomes by motor representations, just that some are. In some cases, the purposiveness of an action is grounded in a motor representation of an outcome; in other cases it is grounded in an intention. And of course in many cases it may be that both intention and motor representation are involved.

intention = motor representation? No!

\section{Motor Representations Aren’t Intentions}

\section{Motor Representations Aren’t Intentions}
As background we first need a generic distinction between content and format. Imagine you are in an unfamiliar city and are trying to get to the central station. A stranger offers you two routes. Each route could be represented by a distinct line on a paper map. The difference between the two lines is a difference in content.
Each of the routes could alternatively have been represented by a distinct series of instructions written on the same piece of paper; these cartographic and propositional representations differ in format. The format of a representation constrains its possible contents. For example, a representation with a cartographic format cannot represent what is represented by sentences such as There could not be a mountain whose summit is inaccessible.'\footnote{ Note that the distinction between content and format is orthogonal to issues about representational medium. The maps in our illustration may be paper map or electronic maps, and the instructions may be spoken, signed or written. This difference is one of medium.} The distinction between content and format is necessary because, as our illustration shows, each can be varied independently of the other.
Format matters because only where two representations have the same format can they be straightforwardly inferentially integrated.
To illustrate, let’s stay with representations of routes. Suppose you are given some verbal instructions describing a route. You are then shown a representation of a route on a map and asked whether this is the same route that was verbally described. You are not allowed to find out by following the routes or by imagining following them. Special cases aside, answering the question will involve a process of translation because two distinct representational formats are involved, propositional and cartographic. It is not be enough that you could follow either representation of the route. You will also need to be able to translate from at least one representational format into at least one other format.
How in general can we identify or distinguish representational formats? Because representational formats are typically associated with characteristic performance profiles, it is sometimes possible to infer similarities and differences in representational format from similarities and differences in the processes in which representations feature.
To illustrate, suppose that you have a route representation and I want to work out whether it this representation has a cartographic or propositional format. One way to do this might be to test your performance on different tasks. If the representation is propositional you are likely to be relatively fast at identifying key landmarks but relatively slow at translating the route into a sequence of compass directions; but the converse will be true if your representation is cartographic.
The same principle---distinguishing and identifying formats by measuring characteristic processing profile---works for mental representations too.
To illustrate, compare imagining seeing an object moving with actually seeing it move. For this comparison we need to distinguish two ways of imagining seeing. There is a way of imagining seeing which phenomenologically is something like seeing except that it does not necessarily involve being receptive to stimuli. This way of imagining seeing, sometimes called sensory imagining', is commonly distinguished from cognitive ways of imagining seeing which might for example involve thinking about seeing. It is this way of imagining seeing an object move that we wish to compare with actually seeing an object move.
Imagining seeing an object move and actually seeing an object move have similarities in characteristic performance profile. For instance, whether an object can be seen all at once depends on its size and distance from the perceiver; strikingly, when subjects imagine seeing an object, whether they can imagine seeing it all at once depends in the same way on size and distance (\citealp{kosslyn:1978_measuring}; \citealp[p.\ 99ff]{kosslyn:1994_image}).
Also, how long it takes to imagine looking over an object depends on the object's subjective size in the same way that how long it would take to actually look over that object would depend on its subjective size \citep{kosslyn:1978_visual}.
The similarities in characteristic performance profile and the particular patterns of interference are good (if non-decisive) reasons to conjecture that imagining seeing and actually seeing involve representations with a common format.
One way of imagining action is phenomenologically something like acting except that such imaginings are not necessarily responsive to the features of actual objects and do not necessarily result in bodily movements.
There is evidence that the way imagining performing an action unfolds in time is similar in some respects to the way actually performing an action of the same type would unfold.
For instance, how long it takes to imagine moving an object is closely related to how long it would take to actually move that object \citep{decety:1989_timing, decety:1996_imagined, Jeannerod:1994oz}.
In addition, for actions such as grasping the handle of a cup, manipulating the target object in ways that would make the action harder (such as orienting the cup's handle to make it less convenient for you to grasp) make a corresponding difference to the effort involved in imagining performing the action \citep{parsons:1994_temporal, frak:2001_orientation}.
Contrast imagining rotating a ball with imagining seeing a ball rotate.
As is implied by what we’ve already said, these have quite different characteristic performance profiles.
How quickly the former can be done is a function of how long it would take the agent to rotate the ball, whereas how quickly the latter can be done depends on how rapidly the ball can rotate and still be perceived as rotating.
Further, in some cases rotating a ball clockwise is easier than rotating it anti-clockwise, and so is imagining a ball rotate. By contrast, the effort involved in actually seeing or imagining seeing a ball rotate does not similarly differ depending on direction.

Only representations with a common format can be inferentially integrated.

Any two intentions can be inferentially integrated in practical reasoning.

My intention that I visit the ZiF is a propositional attitude.

Therefore:

No motor representations are propositional attitudes.

All intentions are propositional attitudes

No motor representations are intentions.

So where does this leave us with respect to our starting point, the ‘Two Stories’ view?
On the face of it, everything I’ve said so far is compatible with that View and might even be taken to support it.
But ...
Recall stealing an apple ...
Imagine you are a hungry shoplifter with a powerful desire for an apple. After carefully considering the pile of apples on the stall, you identify one that can be discretely snatched and form an intention to steal that apple as you casually saunter past the stall. In grasping, transporting and pocketing the apple your movements are controlled by motor representations of these outcomes. So your theft depends on an intention, on some motor representations and on there being a match between the outcome specified by the intention and the outcomes specified by the motor representations.
In short: practical reasoning and motor processes are part of a single story about the performance of action; there must be non-accidental matches between the contents of intentions and motor representations.
\textbf{So we can’t accept the Two Stories View because there must sometimes be content-respecting causal interactions involving intentions and motor representations. Without these, our intentions and motor representations would never non-accidentally have synergistic effects on our actions.}

The Interface Problem:

How are non-accidental matches possible?

Two outcomes, A and B, match in a particular context just if, in that context, either the occurrence of A would normally constitute or cause, at least partially, the occurrence of B or vice versa.

Some actions involve both intention and motor representation

Motor representations:

i. represent outcomes;

ii. ground the purposiveness of some actions; and

iii. differ in format from intentions.

I want to offer a conjecture about how the interface problem is solved ...
There is a way to make the problem of comparison between representational formats trivial
Suppose one representation involves a demonstrative that refers by deferring to another representation
Then the comparison doesn’t require translation between formats after all. Maybe the same can be true for intentions and motor representations. Maybe intentions can involve demonstrative concepts which refer to actions by deferring to motor representations?
[*cut: Set that aside, suppose it can be solved --- essentially because MR must give rise to experience of action. On this view, it is demonstrative deference to motor representation that connects intentions to bodily movements. Only by recognising how intentions interlock with motor representations can we hope to understand how our intentions ever make a difference to the world around us. On this view experience of action plays a novel role. Action experiences in which motor representations feature, such as those associated with motor imagery and those associated with really acting, are arguably necessary for there to be concepts which are constituents of intentions and refer to actions by deferring to motor representations. But if, as we conjecture, such deference is necessary for intentions to properly and reliably result in bodily movements, it may turn out that intentionally acting in the world de- pends on action experiences featuring motor representation. Much as on some views thought about objects depends on perceptual experience (e.g. Campbell 2002), so also intending actions may depend on motor experience.
But we can’t point to motor representations like we can point to maps!
What we need for reference by deference to a motor representation is experience of motor action.
And if you think about motor imagination it seems quite plausible that we do have such experiences.
So here’s the thought: There are no direct inferential connections between intentions and motor representations. Harmony is ensured by the fact that where an intention involves a bodily movement, either executing that intention involves forming a further intention or else the intention involves a demonstrative that refers to an action by deferring to a motor representation.
So what connects intentions to motor representations---what connects the reflective to the pre-reflective---is the use of demonstratives, and this depends on experience of motor action.
Much as on some views all thought about objects ultimately depends on perceptual experience (e.g. Campbell 2002), so also intending bodily actions may ultimately depend on motor experience. Experience anchors the reflective in the pre-reflective.

conclusion

So, in conclusion, let me return to my quote from the workshop’s abstract ...

‘the concept of “intentional action” plays a dominant role.

It is not clear, however, what is meant by saying that an action is intentional

In particular, one might wonder whether intentions should be construed as mental states.’

In my talk I have been exploring the idea that we can make progress with these issues by thinking about some recent---and plenty of not so recent---scientific discoveries about action.
I suggest that (1) motor representations are mental states and argue that (2) some intentions cause action in part by virtue of bearing content-respecting causal relations to motor representations; this, I will suggest, supports the view that intentions are also mental states.
Caution: not all ascriptions of intention need be true in virtue of mental states, and likewise for practical reasoning (remember Maria Alvarez: no process with duration!).
But some intentions must be mental states because without any intentions as mental states there is no non-accidental matching and so no synergistic effects of intention and motor representation.