Thought and Action

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Thought and Action
Thought and Action.JPG
Cover of the first edition
Author Stuart Hampshire
CountryUnited Kingdom
Subject Action theory
Publisher Chatto and Windus
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
ISBN 978-0268018474

Thought and Action is a 1959 book about action theory by the philosopher Stuart Hampshire. The book has received praise from commentators, and is considered Hampshire's major work.



Hampshire discusses contrasts such as those between the necessary and the contingent, between thought and behaviour, between situations and responses to them, between criticism and practice, and between abstract philosophy and experience. He argues that empiricist theories of perception descending from the philosophers George Berkeley and David Hume mistakenly represent people as passive observers receiving impressions from "outside" of the mind, where the "outside" includes their own bodies. [1]

Publication history

Thought and Action was first published by Chatto and Windus in 1959. [2]


The historian Peter Gay wrote that Thought and Action is a "brilliant" and "lucid" contribution to the philosophy of action, and a subtle vindication of free will. [3] The philosopher Roger Scruton credited Hampshire with providing a seminal discussion of two contrasting outlooks on the future that can be called "predicting and deciding". [4] The philosopher R. S. Downie described Thought and Action as Hampshire's major work, [5] while the philosopher Anthony Quinton wrote that Hampshire's "systematic aim and fine mandarin prose were both unusual for an Oxford philosopher of the time." [6]

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  1. Hampshire 1959, pp. 1, 47.
  2. Hampshire 1959, p. 4.
  3. Gay 1976, p. 237.
  4. Scruton 1994, p. 333.
  5. Downie 2005, p. 358.
  6. Quinton 2005, p. 546.