Action Always Presupposes Thought

Action Always Presupposes Thought

In any case of action, it is easy to see that some thought must be present.

When we discussed the ritualistic theory of religion we found that unless ritual was simply meaningless and unmotived play it must be based on some definite creed. We may extend this principle further. Unless action is based on some knowledge it cannot take place at all.

The most that can happen is some automatism of which the person, whose action we call it, is unconscious. An action is necessarily based on a large number of judgments, of which some must be true or the action could not be carried out ; while others may be true or false but must at least be believed.

If, for instance, a man wants to drown himself, he must know “ here lies the water : good : here stands the man : good ” : otherwise he is not able to do it ; and also he must believe rightly or wrongly that he will improve his circumstances and get rid of his present miseries by putting an end to his life ; otherwise he will not desire to do it.

Thus every act depends for its conception and execution upon thought. It is not merely that first we think and then we act ; the thinking goes on all through the act. And  herefore, in general, the conception of any activity as practical alone, and containing no elements of knowing or thinking, is indefensible. Our actions depend on our knowledge.