Thursday, February 4, 2010

21 On Intention

Before we begin I did an interesting observation. As a student I bought The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, publisher MacMIllan, in 1973. It was the reprint 1992 of the first edition of 1967.

There is no article on Virtue Ethics in the encyclopedia, not even a reference in the index of it. In 2006 was published the 2nd edition of this encyclopedia and it has an article on virtue ethics, written by Robert Loudon (1998)

This is how fast things go in philosophy. It all began in 1958. In 1967 it still wasnt worth a place in the encyclopedia. Forty years later an article was written to be published in the 2nd edition 2006.

There was deontological ethics. There was utilitarianism and consequentialism and then a new theory emerges: virtue ethics. To fully understand it, we have to go back to its roots, its origin.

As a human being we are an endless stream of actions. We act, yet stronger, we are even unable not to act. It is like existing, you cant escape it.

Like the man in the courtyard of the hotel in the novel of Simone de Beauvoir "Tous les hommes sont mortals" (1946) [All men are mortal] tries to do.

Our actions don't come out of the blue. Closely related to them is the concept of "INTENTION". we speak of ‘events in a man’s history’ as intentional actions, of the intention with which an action is performed,

and of the expression of intention, or of the corresponding ‘pure’ intention for the future, which may exist though no action has yet been done with that intention.

Of course not all our actions are intentional, but we could say that an action is intentional when it is subject to a certain form of explanation,

or as Margaret Anscombe puts it , when ‘a certain sense of the question "Why?" has application’ to it.

What we have to figure out is, to which actions this particular "Why?" can be applied. It is obvious, that it doesn't apply to actions we are not aware of. Body language is a great example of such actions.

It also doesn't apply to actions of which you become aware of, all of a sudden. You walk to pace, pondering about a problem, and all of a sudden realize that you are walking your room back and forth now for at least half an hour.

Or I know that I am doing something, although I have no clue why I am doing this. Maybe caused by some external power source or maybe hypnosis. Something that can manipulate your central nervous system.

If a piece of behavior passes these tests, it is an intentional action, unless perhaps it is a case of ‘mental causality’, like a startle response when you hear a sudden sound.

I walk side by side with my friend and I may strike him intentionally, or I could stumble and my hand hits his face unintentionally. These are not two distinct actions of mine.

Actions are thus intentional only ‘under a description’. What is given in answer to the question ‘Why?’ is in fact often a further description of the same action.

A series of such questions will thus reveal an order among many of the descriptions true of an action:

‘Why are you pushing that thing?’ -‘because I am shoveling snow - ‘But why are you shoveling snow?’ - ‘Because I am clearing the pavement in front of my house’.

This chain of questions ‘Why?’ may often be pressed into the future, and thus beyond any description of what is now happening;

the responses will then merely express the intention with which the action mentioned earlier is performed.

An important conclusion it, that this knowledge one has of one's intentional actions is not achieved by empirical observation of these actions.

Ascombe calls this "practical knowledge", where, I suppose, the word practical relates to the greek verb 'prattein', which means 'to act', so what is meant here is "knowledge of our actions".

She famously compares the relation that practical thought bears to action with the relation a shopping list bears to the contents of the shopper’s basket.

The corresponding model of non-practical or ‘speculative’ thought is given by the relationship between the same basket and the list of its contents constructed by the detective who follows its owner.

The difference is in ‘direction of fit’, as it is now called: the detective amends a mismatch between list and basket by altering his list, the shopper by altering the contents of the basket.

These are the basic ideas of Margaret Anscombe in her book "Intention" (1957) and now you can imagine how the story will go on in her famous article "Modern Moral Philosophy" of one year later (1958)

Neither in a deontological ethics or in consequentialism is relevant what a person intends to do. In a deontological ethics a (divine) lawgiver tells what 'ought' to be done and in consequentialism you just look at the effect of actions.

Now it may also be clear why Anscombe pleaded for a real philosophy of psychology, because from her perspective we have to investigate , that what generates his intentions,the psychology of the person.

Again we didn't elucidate the concept of virtue, but had to pay attention to preliminary issues. What is clear now is, that the foundation of ethics is in human action which is closely related with human intentions.

Thus the justification of moral actions comes from within and is based on, as Margaret Anscombe concluded, on very specific human traits, called virtue.

To be continued…….

The Discussion

[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: i will be very happy not to see this word again
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: consequentialism
[13:31] Abraxas Nagy: oh?
[13:31] herman Bergson: I understand Gemma
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: so is she saying it is almost genetic?
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: or instinctual?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Well...that depends on the analysis of the concept of virtue
[13:32] herman Bergson: to some extend that is a psychological matter
[13:32] herman Bergson: In fact, virtue ethics is the only approach to the moral question that takes human psychology into account
[13:33] herman Bergson: the quintessence is intention
[13:34] ZANICIA Chau: ergo- nothing to do with genetics
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: ys
[13:34] herman Bergson: Anscombe judged Truman negatively because the approved the use of nuclear bombs on Japan
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: oh
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: why?
[13:35] Justine Rhapsody: but doesn't genetics have something to do with our ability to have intentions of some kinds/
[13:35] herman Bergson: she saw it as a result of a consequentialist approach of the moral question here
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: probably was
[13:36] ZANICIA Chau: yes
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: little bit i have seen about it
[13:36] herman Bergson: She wrote an article about it..Truman's decree it is called I believe
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: re these books and articles available now?
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: are
[13:37] herman Bergson: The main question is ..where do our intentions come from..
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:38] herman Bergson: When you are luck Yes Repose...
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: ㋡
[13:38] herman Bergson: the 1958 article Modern Moral Philosophy for instance is on the Internet
[13:38] herman Bergson: This Truman article might be too...
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: hmm.. doesn't it come down the what you learned.. what one experiences..... and then on draws a conclusion
[13:39] herman Bergson: where do our intentions come from.. is the question....the answer is from our virtues
[13:39] herman Bergson: That is the point Alarice.....
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: ah yes
[13:40] herman Bergson: what is nature and what is nurture in our behavior
[13:40] herman Bergson: Is the respect for life a product of nurture/education or an innate quality
[13:40] herman Bergson: even if we often ignore this inner quality
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: is it only a virtue if it is innate?
[13:41] ZANICIA Chau: Alarice was covering nuture- we are moulded from birth, surely?
[13:41] herman Bergson: No, not necessarily I would say
[13:41] Alarice Beaumont: not totally I would think
[13:42] herman Bergson: But yet this poses another problem.....cultural differences
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:42] Alarice Beaumont: no.. i think not innate...
[13:42] Alarice Beaumont: yes
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well..scientifically we have the fact that all humans have two 'innate' quality...
[13:43] ZANICIA Chau: every culture possesses a fundamental conscience of right and wrong- or how to behave
[13:43] Alarice Beaumont: there are some which are worldwide.. and others depending on culture
[13:43] herman Bergson: humans have a central nervous system....
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes Alarice..but all humans have a central nervous system...
[13:44] herman Bergson: and heroine works on all people allover the world the same
[13:44] herman Bergson: so there must be some universality in the characteristics of the central nervous system
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: movie ET = Christ myth, big seller in Islamic countries too
[13:45] herman Bergson: as the CNS is the power behind out actions.....well...think for yourself :-)
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: well, myth of the dying god...
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: very interesting
[13:46] herman Bergson: So innate or nurture....
[13:46] herman Bergson: Where is the border between the two?
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: if nurture works in us, we have an innate capacity for responding to it maybe
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: maybe chicken and egg here?
[13:47] herman Bergson: some virtue innate?
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: I don't know
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: yes repose lol
[13:48] herman Bergson: When we get to the analysis of the concept of Virtue we may be able to give some answers here
[13:48] ZANICIA Chau: lol
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: ahhhh
[13:48] herman Bergson: who is the chicken and who the egg repose?
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: :-)
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: nature and nurture
[13:49] herman Bergson: I wouldnt say that....
[13:50] herman Bergson: Nurture only modifies the system of behavior of the individual and learns it new behaviors
[13:50] Repose Lionheart: oh
[13:50] Repose Lionheart: you believe nature is primary?
[13:50] herman Bergson: Behavior based on nature will be there without learning....say instinct for instance
[13:50] herman Bergson: it can be trained...but basicly it is there
[13:51] Repose Lionheart: agree, i think
[13:51] herman Bergson: Yes..nature has to be first before you can have an educator
[13:51] Repose Lionheart: question then is...what are we?
[13:51] herman Bergson: We are a specific realisation of nature, called Mind
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: indeed
[13:52] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmm
[13:52] Alarice Beaumont: everyone of us is formed by nature, ppl, culture
[13:52] herman Bergson: we are the only creatures that have a mind
[13:52] ZANICIA Chau: some of us-------
[13:52] Alarice Beaumont: ^^
[13:52] Repose Lionheart: lol
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: Dolphins maybe
[13:52] herman Bergson: you have small minds and great minds Zanicia ㋡
[13:53] Alarice Beaumont: dolphins are intelligent animals
[13:53] herman Bergson: difficult discussion...for now we gonna fight about what intelligent means....
[13:53] herman Bergson: let's not do that
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: lol we did that already
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:54] herman Bergson: We all have our sins...
[13:54] Abraxas Nagy: it means us
[13:54] herman Bergson: Ok....
[13:54] herman Bergson: I think the picture is clear....
[13:55] herman Bergson: Actions are motivated by intentions and intentions are derived from our virtues
[13:55] herman Bergson: the moral question is the Why did you do that question and the justification/description you can give
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: that's what children ask all the time and never stop
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: you answer one "why" and get 10 others lol
[13:56] herman Bergson: So our next station is the philosophical and maybe also psychological question: what is virtue?
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: wow
[13:57] Alarice Beaumont: that is going to be difficult
[13:57] Repose Lionheart: cool!
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: a construct of mind
[13:57] herman Bergson: Yes Alarice.....that is a fascinating phenomenon
[13:58] Alarice Beaumont: and again different interpretations too
[13:58] herman Bergson: But that has more to do with understanding the world tha with a moral question at that age
[13:59] herman Bergson: Oh prepaired for the philosophical disappointment that there are theories and counter theories and counter counter theories here too
[13:59] herman Bergson: But we'll find our way through that forrest
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: hope so
[13:59] Repose Lionheart: also cool!
[14:00] herman Bergson: We may leave a trail of bread crumbs…
[14:01] Repose Lionheart: oh oh -- we know what happened to Hansel and Gretel
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: time to go
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: :_0
[14:01] herman Bergson: If you have no further questions...?
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: see you thursday!
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[14:01] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor!
[14:01] Abraxas Nagy: c ya Gemma :D
[14:01] Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
[14:01] Qwark Allen: THANK YOU
[14:02] Qwark Allen: ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Helloooooo! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜
[14:02] Qwark Allen: Hey! ABRAXAS
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: thanks Herman :-))
[14:02] ZANICIA Chau: Thanks very much prof!
[14:02] Justine Rhapsody: Thanks Professor :)
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: Hey Qwark m8
[14:02] herman Bergson: See you next class then .... class dismissed and thank you for your participation
[14:02] Laila Schuman: baiieeeee to those who are heading out
[14:02] Qwark Allen: PAARTY TIME\o/
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: bye Qwark... bye Gem :-))
[14:02] Qwark Allen: ♥☺☮☺♥!!!Alarice !!! ♥☺☮☺♥
[14:02] herman Bergson: Rodney is late today
[14:02] Qwark Allen: laila
[14:02] Qwark Allen: l ☺☺☺ l
[14:02] Qwark Allen: lol
[14:02] Qwark Allen: how typical
[14:03] Alarice Beaumont: lol
[14:03] herman Bergson: Did you get may reply Alaricce
[14:03] Alarice Beaumont: yes I did Herman :-)
[14:04] Alarice Beaumont: thx... I really found a Tugenethik
[14:04] herman Bergson: I find the german term Tugendethik very suspicious
[14:04] Alarice Beaumont: but I'm confused with it... wondered if it Moralethik in german
[14:04] herman Bergson: Whenyou read articles on that, Alarice
[14:04] Abraxas Nagy: see you all next time :D
[14:04] herman Bergson: check in the literature references if Margaret Anscome is mentioned
[14:05] herman Bergson: Be wel Abraxas
[14:05] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. i acutally found her name... and aristoteles
[14:05] ZANICIA Chau: Bye - and thanks again
[14:05] herman Bergson: If she is mentioned, you are probably on the right track
[14:05] herman Bergson: Well Ari isnt a 100% guarantee...Anscombe is
[14:06] Alarice Beaumont: ah ok... i wanted to understand the lecture... but somehow and did not get the connection really
[14:06] herman Bergson: Maybe todays lecture helped a little?
[14:07] Alarice Beaumont: yes... think so... and i think the next one will even help more
[14:07] Alarice Beaumont: ok.. i will read what they say about tugend ethik then
[14:07] Alarice Beaumont: thx Herman :-))
[14:08] Alarice Beaumont: see you on thursday :-)
[14:08] herman Bergson: good luck Alarice
[14:08] Alarice Beaumont: :-)
[14:08] Alarice Beaumont: bye Laila :-)
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