Persistence, Intention, and Commitment


Cohen, P. R., & Levesque, H. J. (1990). Persistence, intention, and commitment. Reasoning about actions and plans, 297-340.


This paper explores principles governing the rational balance among an agent’s beliefs, goals, actions, and intentions. Such principles provide specifications for artificial agents, and approximate a theory of human action (as philosophers use the term). By making explicit the conditions under which an agent can drop his goals, i.e., by specifying how the agent is committed to his goals, the formalism captures a number of important properties of intention. Specifically, the formalism provides analyses for Bratman’s three characteristic functional roles played by intentions [7,8], and shows how agents can avoid intending all the foreseen side-effects of what they actually intend. Finally, the analysis shows how intentions can be adopted relative to a background of relevant beliefs and other intentions or goals. By relativizing one agent’s intentions in terms of beliefs about another agent’s intentions (or beliefs), we derive a preliminary account of interpersonal commitments.

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