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Philosophy by the Way: Trying

Philosophy by the Way: Trying
Ashwini Ashwini 7 October, 2019
In my blog last week I said that usually we don’t say that an action is an attempt. We just do. But under which conditions is it then that we call an action an attempt? I think that a good starting point for making this clear is Stuart Hampshire’s description of trying, which I came across once when I was preparing an article. We speak of attempting or trying, so Hampshire, when “there is some difficulty and a possibility of failure”: We call an action a try “whenever difficulty or the chance of failure is stressed”. But this is only so, if the agent knows what to do and has decided to act: The agent “should have some idea of how the required result might be achieved and that he should make up his mind now” (Hampshire 1965:107). And I want to add: The agent has not only decided to act, but s/he has started the action as well and maybe already fully performed. Only then there is a try. This addition is perhaps implied by Hampshire but not explicitly said.

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