This paper examines intellectualism in the theory of action. Philosophers use ‘intellectualism’ variously, but few question its application to views on which knowledge of facts—expressible in that-clauses—is basic for understanding other kinds of knowledge, reasons for action, and practical reasoning. More broadly, for intellectualists, theoretical knowledge is more basic than practical knowledge; action, at least if rational, is knowledge-guided, and just as beliefs based on reasoning constitute knowledge only if its essential premises constitute knowledge, actions based on practical reasoning are rational only if any essential premise in it is known. Two major intellectualist claims are that practical knowledge, as knowing how, is reducible to propositional knowledge, a kind of knowing that, and that reasons for action must be (propositionally) known by the agent. This paper critically explores both claims by offering a broad though partial conception of practical knowledge and a pluralistic view of reasons for action. The aim is to sketch conceptions of knowing how and knowing that, and of the relation between knowledge and action, that avoid intellectualism but also do justice to both the importance of the intellect for human action and the distinctive character of practical reason.
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