• Herg
    244
    This begs the question between us, which is whether killing Alan and Betty is an immoral act if it is the only way of saving the lives of Charles and Dora. — Herg

    I was just answering your question.Bob Ross

    My point is that I consider YOUR position to be immoral. It is universally held that a human life is among the most valuable things in the universe; perhaps THE most valuable. Yet in the trolley and driver scenarios, you take the view that human lives are less important than the supposed principle that it is always, irrespective of all other considerations, wrong to take an innocent human life. Why you introduce the notion of innocence, I have no idea, because in both scenarios there is no difference in the innocence of those you think should not be killed, and those you are willing to let die. At the same time, you draw an entirely sophistical distinction between a moral choice that results in the loss of a life by way of a bodily movement, and a moral choice that results in the loss of a life without any bodily movement. You fail to understand what has been pointed out to you, that moral character attaches to the choice, not to the bodily action or inaction by which the choice produces its result.

    If you wish to defend your position to me — and I suspect you don't, because you show a marked impatience towards those of your interlocutors who wish to tackle you on the morality of your position, rather than on technical details such as the exact meaning and scope of 'intention' — then you need to post a sound argument that derives your contentious principle from agreed facts, such as facts of nature (you have said that, like me, you are an ethical naturalist). If you have already posted such an argument, then please direct me to it; so far, you have only directed me to your ideas about the concept of goodness, which, while obviously relevant and of interest, will not by itself stand in the place of a sound argument from fact to moral principle.


    How do you know which actions, on the one hand, are immoral, and which, on the other, are permissible or obligatory? — Herg

    Ultimately based off of what is Good; and how best to progress towards and preserve it.Bob Ross
    See above. There is not nearly enough detail here to show how you derive the principle that it is wrong to kill innocent people by positive action.


    You need to work that out first, and then that will tell you whether someone is a moral agent or not. So actions are more central to normative ethics than being a moral agent. — Herg

    Actions are a part of being a moral agentBob Ross
    No, this is just loose talk. There is an obvious distinction between an action and the agent who performs the action.


    and what one needs to “work out first” is knowledge of The Good.Bob Ross
    I agree (though your ideas and mine are rather different in this area), but as I say, you need to show how to derive your contentious principle from this knowledge.


    In terms of what I think the highest good is, and why I think it is immoral to intentionally kill an innocent human being, I have already explicated this to youBob Ross
    The first, yes, but not, as far as I can discover, the second.


    —but you never responded to them. I would suggest you reread them and respond if you want to engage in that aspect of the conversation.Bob Ross
    I will respond to your post about goodness if I have time, but since my main objection to your position is that I strongly disagree with your contentious principle, I would prefer to read a proper argument from you justifying the principle, and respond to that.
  • Tzeentch
    3.5k
    I think the word "innocent" is used more in the sense of "uninvolved".

    As I've pointed out earlier, if someone were to push a person on the train tracks, even if their intentions were good, they would be going to jail for murder. There's not a country in the world where this would be seen as the correct thing to do.

    I'd agree that legality is a very limited scope of viewing moral problems, but when the world unanimously agrees on something one would have to concede that arguing for pulling the lever is fighting an uphill battle, to put it mildly.

    In my view, we can't just go around instrumentalizing the lives of uninvolved ("innocent") bystanders whenever we deem the outcome to be good.

    Besides, in the face of morally ambiguous problems we have a perfectly morally acceptable option open to us: do not get involved.
  • Tzeentch
    3.5k
    What I find particularly interesting is the notion that not getting involved is equated to commiting the act.

    I understand the allure of such a view - on the surface it seems to make sense in certain situations - but the implications are absurd.

    Lets say person A murders person B, is person C now responsible?
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I was traveling today and so I listened to a recent talk by a good philosopher, Kevin Flannery (who is not the best public speaker). He talks about the way that Aquinas views the relation of the means and the end at 18:08-22:19, which is what you are speaking about. (For the whole section on Aquinas' view of intention, see 17:41.)

    I listened to it briefly, and it sounds promising. I will listen to the whole video sometime, but I don’t have the time right now.

    You are building your definition around a noun, 'ideal.' Even on your redaction, the Google definition is still built around something that directly refers to the verb of acting, "a course of action." The genus of intention is acts, whereas the genus of ideals is ideas. An intention is some kind of act, not some kind of idea or ideal. This may seem like a quibble, but it's really not, as many people make this mistake about intention.

    I would say, to clarify, that an intention is an activity of the will + reason such that one aims at an ideal. You can’t strip out the ideality of it: that makes no sense.

    The idea is that the intention of the means and the intention of the end are both separable and inseparable. We can view them under different aspects, but to say they are entirely separate is not correct.

    Taking this on face value, it is incoherent. I think you are definitely getting at something, but it isn’t fully fleshed out yet.

    Flannery speaks of the means as, "The things [the agent] believes or hopes will lead to [his] end."

    I think that is a bad definition, because it converts an actual means into a believed means and conflates the two. E.g., I could intend to quench my thirst and go to the store to get water bottles and someone else points out that I could have just went into the kitchen to get water (viz., the fact that I am unaware of the means does not make it less of an means [potential or actual] towards my intention).

    You have missed the distinction between a potential means and an actual means. Go back to my tennis racquet example. Before I begin playing the three racquets are each a potential means to playing tennis. Once I choose the Wilson racquet and begin playing, the Wilson racquet is an actual means to playing tennis. A potential means is that which can be used to realize some end. An actual means is that which is used in order to realize some end.

    I was just commenting that the semantics seems a bit confusing and in need of refurbishment; but I understand the distinction you are making (although it doesn’t make any relevant difference to me with respect to our discussion). The racquets you don’t choose to use are actually a means to your end (of playing tennis): to say they are potentially a means is to imply that they are not currently a means; which is clearly false.

    They are still a means because they can facilitate your end. Remember, we defined means in such a way where what you call a “potential means” fits the definition of a “means” simpliciter. Saying it is potentially a means is to say it isn’t a means right now, which is clearly false given the definition I outlined before.

    Our whole proximate goal is to distinguish a means from a foreseen effect

    I am pretty confident I have already clarified this; but let me do so again. A means is something which can facilitate an end (i.e., intention). A foreseen effect is an effect that one knows with sufficient probability is going to occur before it happens.

    for example by pointing to the fact that the car's polluting emissions are not a means to getting groceries, but they are a foreseen effect

    I agree: the pollution emissions is an effect of the means used to achieve the end (in this case).

    So then you tried to make a distinction on intention to clear this up, with "essential intention" and "accidental intention." But now you say that both a means and a foreseen effect are intended per accidens,


    Right, and you don't yet have the tools to even see the difference between a means and a foreseen effect. At this point it is invisible to you

    Both a means and a foreseen effect can be intended (per accidens or per se); it just depends. I’ve already outlined what I mean by all the concepts involved here.

    A means is intended, if one is aiming at using that something (which is question) to facilitate their intention (i.e., end).

    A means is intended per accidens, if it is intended only for the sake of another intention which they currently set out to achieve.

    A means is intended per se, if it is intended for the sake of the primary intention which they are currently setting out to achieve.

    In the trolley problem:

    1. A means to saving the five is the lever.
    2. Saving the five is an effect (of pulling the lever).
    3. Saving the five is an intention (that one is aiming at achieving).
    4. Killing the one is an effect (of pulling the lever).
    5. The effect of saving the five is per se intentional, because it is directly related to the initial, primary intention at play.
    6. The effect of killing the one is per accidens intentional, because it is indirectly related to the initial, primary intention at play.
    7. The means (of pulling the lever) is per se intention, because it is directly …

    If your car is essential to actualizing the intention (i.e. it is an essential means) then it is not right to say that the car is "unessential to the intention which I have."

    You are just getting confused in colloquial speech. I’ve already clarified that the unessentiality is to the ideal which one is aiming at; and which it can be readily seen that the car is unessential in this sense because if there was no car one would still have the exact same intention.

    To say that "it could be an actual means towards Q [but in this case it is not]" is just to say that it is a potential means towards Q. That's what a potential means is.

    Saying it is potentially a means is to say it isn’t a means right now. A, in the V diagram, IS A MEANS to Q even if one directly intends P—that’s what you are missing.

    To your point, what you are really conveying is that if one doesn’t use the means, then it wasn’t used; but, to my point, it is still a means.

    No it's not, because for Brock an actual means is directly intended

    I agree; and you just aren’t seeing that yet. By “actual means”, all you mean is “a means that was used”; and I completely agree that only the means that are used for one’s aims are per se, directly, intentional. There’s no problems with that.

    No, this is a case of negligence, and is quite different from what we are considering.

    Can we at least agree that indirectly intending to kill someone is murder? You can’t possibly think that the legal definition of “manslaughter” would encompass indirectly intentionally killing someone. That was my point.

    Regarding this third wall, suppose there is an evil and it is morally impermissible to directly intend this evil. Does it follow that it is impermissible to indirectly intend this evil?

    I think not. Take the matter of the especially bad car emissions due to a faulty exhaust system. Is it impermissible to directly intend those emissions? For example, to allow your car to idle for the sake of the emissions? I think so. Does it follow that it is impermissible to get groceries in the car, even when you know it will produce those emissions? No, I don't think so.

    I think this is a bad example, then, because I don’t see bad car emissions as necessarily evil (i.e., intrinsically bad). Whereas I do think that indirectly intending to kill someone is wrong and is an example of indirectly intending to do evil.

    For example, imagine that the only way you could get to the grocery store was use a car that you knew would (somehow) result (as a side effect) in raping someone: is that permissible under your view? Or do you revert back to some sort of consequentialist view at that point?
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I listened to it briefly, and it sounds promising. I will listen to the whole video sometime, but I don’t have the time right now.Bob Ross

    It may or may not intersect with your interests, but the few minutes I pointed out are relevant.

    I would say, to clarify, that an intention is an activity of the will + reason such that one aims at an ideal. You can’t strip out the ideality of it: that makes no sense.Bob Ross

    Okay, that's better. But why 'ideal'? I would say that what one is aiming at is an end, not an ideal. Not everything that is aimed at is ideal. I might intend to walk through mud in order to get home. Walking through mud is an end or goal that I intend, but it is not an ideal. Or I might eat Ramen noodles for dinner if I am almost out of food, but eating Ramen noodles is not an ideal. Our ends are self-consciously better than the alternatives, but that something is better than the alternatives does not make it ideal.

    I think that is a bad definition, because it converts an actual means into a believed means and conflates the two. E.g., I could intend to quench my thirst and go to the store to get water bottles and someone else points out that I could have just went into the kitchen to get water (viz., the fact that I am unaware of the means does not make it less of an means [potential or actual] towards my intention).Bob Ross

    I have no idea what you think the difference between an actual means and a potential means is supposed to be. That distinction seems incoherent given the way you speak here.

    Remember, we defined means in such a way where what you call a “potential means” fits the definition of a “means” simpliciter.Bob Ross

    No, you are just asserting your own definition. I have not agreed to your ambiguous definition of a means.

    I was just commenting that the semantics seems a bit confusing and in need of refurbishment; but I understand the distinction you are making (although it doesn’t make any relevant difference to me with respect to our discussion). The racquets you don’t choose to use are actually a means to your end (of playing tennis): to say they are potentially a means is to imply that they are not currently a means; which is clearly false.

    They are still a means because they can facilitate your end. Remember, we defined means in such a way where what you call a “potential means” fits the definition of a “means” simpliciter. Saying it is potentially a means is to say it isn’t a means right now, which is clearly false given the definition I outlined before.
    Bob Ross

    So if the racquets in my bag that are not being used are an actual means, then what is a potential means? Again, the distinction is nowhere near coherent the way you are wielding it.

    I am pretty confident I have already clarified this; but let me do so again. A means is something which can facilitate an end (i.e., intention). A foreseen effect is an effect that one knows with sufficient probability is going to occur before it happens.Bob Ross

    And, as I said, on your definition here a foreseen effect is a means pure and simple, lol. You have provided yourself with no way to talk about a foreseen effect that is not a means, and therefore you have no way to distinguish the intentionality of an actual means from a foreseen effect.

    Part of the problem here is the way that you are not respecting colloquial usage, and this will end up leading you astray. Every cause of an effect can be used as a means to achieve that effect, but people would look at you like you are crazy if you always refer to causes as means. "The tornado destroyed the town, therefore the tornado is a means." What??! A means is something that we use in order to achieve some end. It is not incorrect to speak about potential means (i.e. things that we could use to achieve an end), but a means must always be connected to intention, either proximately or remotely. "Means" does not mean "cause."

    Both a means and a foreseen effect can be intended (per accidens or per se); it just depends. I’ve already outlined what I mean by all the concepts involved here.

    A means is intended, if one is aiming at using that something (which is question) to facilitate their intention (i.e., end).

    A means is intended per accidens, if it is intended only for the sake of another intention which they currently set out to achieve.

    A means is intended per se, if it is intended for the sake of the primary intention which they are currently setting out to achieve.

    In the trolley problem:

    1. A means to saving the five is the lever.
    2. Saving the five is an effect (of pulling the lever).
    3. Saving the five is an intention (that one is aiming at achieving).
    4. Killing the one is an effect (of pulling the lever).
    5. The effect of saving the five is per se intentional, because it is directly related to the initial, primary intention at play.
    6. The effect of killing the one is per accidens intentional, because it is indirectly related to the initial, primary intention at play.
    7. The means (of pulling the lever) is per se intention, because it is directly …
    Bob Ross

    The crux is this question, "Is killing the one an intended means?" Presumably you want to say that it is intended (per accidens), but it is not intended as a means, because "One is not aiming at using it to facilitate their end"? In common English what we say is that killing the one is not a means (to anything) in this scenario. To talk about a means apart from intention makes no sense. Thus killing the one is an effect that falls under our intention (or an indirectly intended effect), but it is not a means because it has no relation to our intention qua means. An unintended means is an oxymoron, and therefore an intended means is a redundancy.

    You are just getting confused in colloquial speech. I’ve already clarified that the unessentiality is to the ideal which one is aiming at; and which it can be readily seen that the car is unessential in this sense because if there was no car one would still have the exact same intention.Bob Ross

    If you had read what I wrote you would perhaps see that if there was no car then one would not have the intention at all: "... and in the absence of [an essential] car the end will not even be able arise as a possible end." For example, we didn't entertain the end of going to the moon before we knew how to fly. That end is not separable from the means of flying.

    Saying it is potentially a means is to say it isn’t a means right now.Bob Ross

    And what could this sentence of yours possibly mean? Give one example of a potential means, if you think your distinction is coherent.

    I agree; and you just aren’t seeing that yet. By “actual means”, all you mean is “a means that was used”; and I completely agree that only the means that are used for one’s aims are per se, directly, intentional. There’s no problems with that.Bob Ross

    This is incorrect because your "per accidens means" has nothing to do with the direct/indirect intention of Brock's. What you apparently mean by "per accidens intention" is any intention that is not identical with the "primary intention." Else you should clarify what you mean by a per accidens intention.

    Looked at in another way, you are omitting an important caveat. You should say, "I completely agree that only the means that are used for one’s aims are per se, directly, intentional, [except for a means intended per accidens, which is also used for one's aims]." ...unless you want to persist and say that intermediate ends do not count as one's aims, such as walking to the faucet. I think you need to understand that walking to the faucet is simultaneously an end and a means to a further end, just as quenching your thirst is simultaneously an end, but also a means (to, say, health). Walking to the faucet is surely one of our aims.

    Can we at least agree that indirectly intending to kill someone is murder?Bob Ross

    Hmm? This is precisely what we disagree on. The death of the one in the trolley scenario is indirectly intended.

    You can’t possibly think that the legal definition of “manslaughter” would encompass indirectly intentionally killing someone. That was my point.Bob Ross

    I think you are the one mixing up colloquial understandings, now. You have very obviously forgotten what it even means to indirectly intend something. You keep reducing <indirectly intending to kill someone> with <intending to kill someone>.

    Regarding this third wall, suppose there is an evil and it is morally impermissible to directly intend this evil.Leontiskos

    I think this is a bad example, then, because I don’t see bad car emissions as necessarily evil (i.e., intrinsically bad).Bob Ross

    Stay with what I already wrote. Is it or is it not morally prohibited to directly intend these emissions? That is the first question you need to consider.

    For example, imagine that the only way you could get to the grocery store was use a car that you knew would (somehow) result (as a side effect) in raping someone: is that permissible under your view?Bob Ross

    This goes back to the problem about the distinction between natural necessity and logical necessity. If a tyrant says, "I will rape this woman if you drive to the grocery store," then is it permissible for me to drive to the grocery store? Of course it is. And if you cannot substitute some other scenario that better accomplishes the aim of your hypothetical, then I would say that you have again fallen into a strange reliance on merely logical necessity (where I am not allowed to do P when (P → Q)).
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    - There seems to be a lot of residue sticking around from the first phase of our conversation, and that's understandable. Let's look at the argument that you were ultimately attempting to make in that first phase:

    1. If Q is a means to P then Q is (directly) intended
    2. If (P → Q) then Q is a means to P
    3. (P → Q)
    4. ∴ Q is a means to P {from 2 & 3}
    5. ∴ Q is (directly) intended {from 1 & 4}
    6. It is impermissible to (directly) intend an evil
    7. Q is evil
    8. ∴ (5) is impermissible {from 5, 6, & 7}

    Now I refuted (2) earlier, and you seemed to accept that refutation. But one could support (1) independently of (2), and you seem to be half-trying to do this now. The problem with such an approach is that the "means" in (1) is clearly an actual/chosen means, not a merely potential means. We can infer intention from a means only when that means is actualized or chosen. It does not follow, for example, from, "The tornado is a means to destruction," that the tornado is intended.

    In the trolley case the death of the one falls under (indirect) intention not because pulling the lever is a means to their death. I repeat, it is not indirectly intentional because pulling the lever is a means. The reason their death is indirectly intentional is because it is an effect of the cause of pulling the lever, and that cause is intended. You keep sneaking in this word "means" in very dubious ways, and this has the effect of bringing (1) to bear in a false and misleading way. There is no reason at all that we should be talking about the word "means" when it comes to the relation between the lever and the death. Again, a cause is not the same thing as a means.

    The deeper issue here is one of pedagogy:

    I would say that the trolley problem is limited but not pointless. In particular I think it is pedagogically limited.Leontiskos

    If I were teaching philosophy I would not allow my students to examine the trolley problem until we had studied causality, intention, and responsibility in depth. A very bad way to do philosophy is to take extremely controversial cases and begin there. If someone begins with controversy then the foundations that inevitably get laid to account for the controversy are biased in favor of the emotional-controversial cases. This is a poor approach because controversial cases are by definition difficult to understand, and one should begin with what is easy to understand before slowly moving to what is more difficult. If the mind does not have the principles and the easier cases "under its belt" then it will have no chance of confronting the difficult and controversial cases. This is perhaps one of the most basic problems with modern philosophy, but I digress.

    But note that this is what is occurring in the thread. You have your conclusion, "Pulling the lever in the trolley case is impermissible," and you are trying to sort out all the foundations of causality, intention, and responsibility in order to account for that conclusion. This is placing all sorts of strange pressures on colloquial usage and the more obvious, uncontroversial cases. As far as I'm concerned, this approach is backwards, and that's why I don't really like the trolley problem. That's why I've been trying to get you to think about what intention is in itself, or how causal necessity differs from logical necessity, or how responsibility applies in simpler cases of car emissions.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    What I find particularly interesting is the notion that not getting involved is equated to commiting the act.Tzeentch

    Yes, it's an ever-present assumption in these problems. Consequentialism is the air we breathe, and for the consequentialist there is no clear difference between an act and an omission. Put differently, Foot's understanding of morality as a set of hypothetical imperatives is widely accepted, and on her model there can be no impermissible means. Granted, this does not exactly square with her own analysis of the trolley-adjacent cases, but I do think an impermissible means implicates a non-hypothetical imperative.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Yet in the trolley and driver scenarios, you take the view that human lives are less important than the supposed principle...Herg

    I don't think it is ever right to isolate a principle in this manner, as if you yourself are not using a different principle to oppose their principle. There is no alternative to principles.

    Now you are not a consequentialist, but the objection usually comes from consequentialists. They will say, "You care about your principle, but I care about human life!" Well, no. The deontologist cares about human life via deontological principles, and the consequentialist cares about human life via consequentialist principles. There is no one who bypasses principles altogether and just cares about human life in a way that overrides all principles and all rational analysis.
  • Leontiskos
    2k


    Eh, I think I’ve changed my mind again. :lol: As I said earlier, "I accept a relatively uncontroversial form of double effect whereby the unintended effect must only be possible and not certain" (). After reading a book by Kevin Flannery a few years ago I became convinced that it is not permissible to pull the lever in the trolley case.* I think that is still correct. Flannery shows that Anscombe’s critique of “Cartesian intention” is correct, and that circumstances are always relevant to moral questions.

    The problem I encountered in this thread (and the reason I changed my mind in <this post>) is that it seems that double effect would allow—but not require—that the lever be pulled. First, I don’t think the principle of double effect is altogether mistaken, for there are obvious cases where it applies and it is known to be a very unwieldy principle. The problem with the trolley case is that the foreseen effect is simply too problematic given both its certainty and the form of strong deliberation that the case involves. That is, it is too intentional, even if it is, strictly speaking, indirectly intended. This is basically what you yourself have been saying.

    The case where the car is about to hit four people is artificial in the sense that it conflates a case where there is almost zero deliberation with a case where we have ample time to deliberate. It is like asking, “What would you do if four people suddenly appeared in front of your speeding car, and you had infinite time to deliberate?” This case is confused given the way it equivocates on the ability to deliberate, and it was a poor example on my part. Nevertheless, it is still a very difficult example to handle, and I think it is probably permissible to swerve in order to minimize damage. It seems a relevant difference that you are actually driving the vehicle in this case.

    But in the airplane example I think the pilot does need to aim at the area with least people. This isn’t a matter of double effect but rather of minimizing damage, and the fact of the matter is that in this scenario no one is tied down to trolley tracks. Both the certitude and the deliberation of the trolley case are absent. The plane is reacting to people and people are reacting to the plane, and by aiming at the area with the fewest people the pilot minimizes damage and provides the optimal opportunity for people to get out of the way of the plane as it lands.

    * Cooperation with Evil: Thomistic Tools of Analysis
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    My argument is relatively simple:

    P1: It is morally impermissible to intentionally kill an innocent human being [against their will].
    P2: One intentionally kills an innocent human being [against their will] by pulling the lever.
    C: It is morally impermissible to pull the lever.

    Now, you are contending with P1 (obviously); and I explained that it stems from the idea that beings of a rational kind have rights:

    P1*1: It is morally impermissible to violate a living being’s rights.
    P1*2: One is violating the rights of a being of a rational kind by intentionally killing them [when they are innocent and it is against their will].
    P1*C: It is morally impermissible to intentionally kill an innocent human being [against their will].

    Now, I’ve given many reasons for the idea that beings a rational kind should have rights in this comment which you completely ignored.

    I will briefly recap that comment:

    1. Rational beings are sufficiently civic and social whereof they engage in a “social contract”; and this social contract must guarantee certain irrevocable entitlements of power about themselves which can be exercised on other people—i.e., rights.

    2. Rational beings have sufficient free will to engage in their own projects and, in this regard, makes them capable of (1) being moral agents and (2) significantly richer degrees of happiness.

    #1 is a point that stems from the idea that rights come from “social contracts”; and #2 stems from the idea that rights are innate. Personally, I go for #2; but either sufficiently demonstrates the bulk of my point (although #2 does it more completely).

    With respect to #1, one cannot be fair while extracting work from another being which is engaging and contributing in society and not reciprocate anything back to them. Likewise, they cannot revoke the entitlements which may be granted by way of being a citizen (of said society) when it is convenient.

    With respect to #2, the rational capacities of a human, as opposed to other animals, (e.g., free will, self-consciousness, etc.) seems to set them out as (A) more important and (B) an object of respected action and will. With respect to A, I don’t think we disagree on this point; but you don’t see B yet: to treat a rational being with respect, one must respect their free willed decisions—which is not present in respecting irrational beings.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Always good work from Bob, I have been able to grasp my own thoughts a bit better through your exchange with Herg in here. Thanks for all the work and intel you share consistently, it is appreciated. Many others to be thanked in this from me as well, good stuff all around. Cool.

    :up: You too, Kizzy!
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Eh, I think I’ve changed my mind again. :lol:

    No worries at all! As you know, I change my mind all the time :smile: . I commend your efforts to genuinely strive after the truth—which is a rare quality these days.

    "I accept a relatively uncontroversial form of double effect whereby the unintended effect must only be possible and not certain"

    That is, it is too intentional, even if it is, strictly speaking, indirectly intended

    How can you deploy the principle of double effect, even possibly, in the airplane, trolley, and car examples if your definition of double effect precludes the permissibility of indirectly intentional acts, effects, etc. ?

    Viz., your elaboration of the principle of double effect whereof the side effect is unintended: wouldn’t it need to be unintended or indirectly intended for your view to be consistent?

    After reading a book by Kevin Flannery a few years ago I became convinced that it is not permissible to pull the lever in the trolley case.*

    I put that in my queue of books to read; thanks for the heads up!

    Flannery shows that Anscombe’s critique of “Cartesian intention” is correct, and that circumstances are always relevant to moral questions.

    Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with “cartesian intention”; so I cannot comment on this part.

    That is, it is too intentional, even if it is, strictly speaking, indirectly intended. This is basically what you yourself have been saying.

    We are closer to agreeing now, but we have slightly different views here: you seem to be saying that it is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being when it is of a high enough degree of intention (deliberation), whereas I am saying period.

    When one aims at an end uses a means with two effects, one of which is to the benefit of the end and other merely accidental, then their act of using the means is an act simultaneously towards both effects; and those effects are both intentional (either indirectly or directly) when one deliberately does it with knowledge of both effects; and if that act is producing something bad, like killing an innocent person, even if it simultaneously produces something good, then they should never intentionally do it (i.e., it is morally impermissible) because a moral agent, not in the sense of just being capable of being moral but actually being moral, does not do bad things.

    To me, it doesn’t matter how extensively they deliberated about doing the act; if they did it deliberately at all it is wrong.

    The case where the car is about to hit four people is artificial in the sense that it conflates a case where there is almost zero deliberation with a case where we have ample time to deliberate

    That’s fair; but it doesn’t change anything because you stipulated that they can only either run over the two (and save the other two) or run over all four. In real life, we can both agree one should swerve but with the intention of missing all four. That’s the key: you’ve setup the hypothetical where the person would have sufficient time to deliberate on whether to run over just the two or the entire four. What you are noting about the difference in deliberation time is a practical critique that doesn’t apply to your hypothetical.

    But in the airplane example I think the pilot does need to aim at the area with least people

    In practicality I agree, because the pilot would not be intending to kill people in area A as opposed to B to limit the deaths: they would be intending to land somewhere with no people.

    Perhaps, you would still say that it is morally permissible for the pilot to intend to kill one person on the ground to avoid crashing into a festival; but I wouldn’t (for the previous reasons above).

    In terms of the way I define “intention” as “a power of the will whereof it aims at some ideal”, I am using “ideal” in the sense of “what should be” not what “ultimately should be”: you are confusing these two. If you intend not to get your feet wet and thereby decide to jump over the puddle in the street, then you had set forth an “ideal” to not have wet feet but, to your point, it is not an “ideal” in the sense that ultimately jumping over the puddle was exactly how reality should be (e.g., you might think that ideally there should have been no puddle at all, etc.). I am using “ideal” and “end” interchangeably here: they both refer to some sort of dictation a subject gives about reality such that it should be a way it currently isn’t—and that’s the nature of aiming at an end.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    No worries at all! As you know, I change my mind all the time :smile: . I commend your efforts to genuinely strive after the truth—which is a rare quality these days.Bob Ross

    Okay, thanks.

    How can you deploy the principle of double effect, even possibly, in the airplane, trolley, and car examples if your definition of double effect precludes the permissibility of indirectly intentional acts, effects, etc. ?

    Viz., your elaboration of the principle of double effect whereof the side effect is unintended: wouldn’t it need to be unintended or indirectly intended for your view to be consistent?
    Bob Ross

    Sure, so in that quote I used "unintended" because Brock's terminology of indirect intention had not yet been brought into the thread.

    Aquinas will say that the foreseen effect falls under the agent's intention, or else is "beside" his intention. Brock will say that the foreseen effect is an indirect object of intention, but he also uses things like "indirectly intended" as a shorthand. I think Aquinas' statements are more careful and helpful on this score, but the point is that there is a large difference between an intended effect and a foreseen effect.

    Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with “cartesian intention”; so I cannot comment on this part.Bob Ross

    For Anscombe the Cartesian approach to intention is more or less the idea that one can simply and straightforwardly choose which effects of their act to intend and which effects to not-intend.

    We are closer to agreeing now, but we have slightly different views here: you seem to be saying that it is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being when it is of a high enough degree of intention (deliberation), whereas I am saying period.Bob Ross

    Somewhat, but I am saying that it is different to directly intend the death of an innocent and to indirectly intend the death of an innocent. All directly intended killings of this sort are impermissible, and this is what we call murder or killing simpliciter. As to indirectly intended killings, some are permissible and some are not.

    When one aims at an end uses a means with two effects, one of which is to the benefit of the end and other merely accidental, then their act of using the means is an act simultaneously towards both effectsBob Ross

    So you are engaged in the use of that word "means" in precisely the dubious and misleading way I explained above. I have explained this many times, so I don't feel the need to do so again.

    and those effects are both intentional (either indirectly or directly) when one deliberately does it with knowledge of both effects; and if that act is producing something bad, like killing an innocent person, even if it simultaneously produces something good, then they should never intentionally do it (i.e., it is morally impermissible) because a moral agent, not in the sense of just being capable of being moral but actually being moral, does not do bad things.Bob Ross

    The question that is being begged is whether a foreseen effect is a "doing."

    Here is what you need to address if you want to deny double effect:

    Stay with what I already wrote. Is it or is it not morally prohibited to directly intend these emissions? That is the first question you need to consider.Leontiskos

    -

    That’s fair; but it doesn’t change anything because you stipulated that they can only either run over the two (and save the other two) or run over all four. In real life, we can both agree one should swerve but with the intention of missing all four. That’s the key: you’ve setup the hypothetical where the person would have sufficient time to deliberate on whether to run over just the two or the entire four. What you are noting about the difference in deliberation time is a practical critique that doesn’t apply to your hypothetical.Bob Ross

    The hypothetical is physically impossible. In that situation you simply do not have sufficient time to deliberate. If one wants a case where there is sufficient time to deliberate, then they will need to cook up a new hypothetical.

    In practicality I agree, because the pilot would not be intending to kill people in area A as opposed to B to limit the deaths: they would be intending to land somewhere with no people.Bob Ross

    As a remote intention they may be trying to land somewhere with no people, but practically speaking they may foresee the effect that at least some people will die. In that case they are trying to minimize death and injury.

    In terms of the way I define “intention” as “a power of the will whereof it aims at some ideal”, I am using “ideal” in the sense of “what should be” not what “ultimately should be”: you are confusing these two. If you intend not to get your feet wet and thereby decide to jump over the puddle in the street, then you had set forth an “ideal” to not have wet feet but, to your point, it is not an “ideal” in the sense that ultimately jumping over the puddle was exactly how reality should beBob Ross

    That's not what "ideal" means, and that's why your definition fails. You are trying to make a word mean something it does not. "Acceptable" and "ideal" are not the same thing, and your view would make "ideal" sometimes mean nothing more than "acceptable." It is simply a fact that no one would ever go home to their family and tell them a story about how it was "ideal" to walk through the mud. Words cannot be stretched so far.


    Edit: The contentious claim you are making is something like <There is no morally relevant difference between direct intention and indirect intention; between an end and a foreseen effect>.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    the point is that there is a large difference between an intended effect and a foreseen effect.

    Even under your characterization of the two, they are both intended effects. If you accept either Brock’s or Aquinas’ characterizations that you gave (above this comment), then it necessarily follows that a foreseen effect is intentional (albeit it of a meaningfully different “type” thereof).

    I don’t see how it makes sense in your view to make a dichotomy between an intended vs. foreseen effect in this way. It would only make sense if you accepted that some foreseen effects are not intentional whatsoever; which I do not understand you to be making that claim.

    For Anscombe the Cartesian approach to intention is more or less the idea that one can simply and straightforwardly choose which effects of their act to intend and which effects to not-intend.

    Interesting. I am not sure I followed, though. This sounds like a view whereof one gets to dictate what they are intending, as opposed to what they end up doing to aim at their intention being intentional—irregardless of what they believe they are intending to do.

    All directly intended killings of this sort are impermissible, and this is what we call murder or killing simpliciter. As to indirectly intended killings, some are permissible and some are not.

    Again, all intended killings that are illegal are murder: that includes indirectly intended ones. The only way around this is to deviate substantially from common terminology.

    When one aims at an end uses a means with two effects, one of which is to the benefit of the end and other merely accidental, then their act of using the means is an act simultaneously towards both effects — Bob Ross

    So you are engaged in the use of that word "means" in precisely the dubious and misleading way I explained above. I have explained this many times, so I don't feel the need to do so again.

    There was nothing dubious with my statement (other than a syntax/grammar mistake): if one aims at an end by using a means, that means has two effects, one effect ….

    Wouldn’t you agree, that all effects relevant to an analysis of intention stem from a means utilized to aim at the direct intention.

    The other issue I just realized, is that the direct vs. indirect distinction is not the same as the per se vs. per accidens intention I made. A direct intention points out the flow of the aim, from start to finish, in the particular practical application (and so, for example, a means utilized for the end is directly intended, but a side effect from that means is indirectly intended); whereas a per se intention points out the “final cause”, or “original intention” stripped of all accidental aims enveloped into it by the practical circumstances, which is being set out as the “original end”.

    That’s why we haven’t been able to agree on the terminology here; because we are talking about two separate things, but both vital to our discussion.

    It is important to note the “directional flow” that is set out, like the aiming of an archer at their target, to understand what is essential to achieving the end in the given circumstance; but, likewise, it is important to note the “bare end” which was set out to begin with, and is not dependent on the circumstances. E.g., an archer that intends to hit their mark on their target directly intends to release the arrow from their bow towards their target in a most optimal manner and they indirectly intend to scare someone if they can foresee the person next to them being alarmed by their release of said arrow; whereas the archer’s end (here) may require releasing the arrow at an odd angle due to windy circumstances (and this release in said manner would be, if it is foreseen, directly intended) but this is NOT a part of the per se intention that they have—for their purposive final cause is to hit their target, which has no relevance itself to the particular windy circumstances of a nuanced, practical situation they may be in (viz., if there was no windy circumstance, then they would still have the same end in sight).

    These two distinctions are not the same at all; and our dispute really hinged on a conflation between the two.

    The question that is being begged is whether a foreseen effect is a "doing."

    How??? It is simple: one does something which results in the foreseen effect.

    Here is what you need to address if you want to deny double effect:
    Stay with what I already wrote. Is it or is it not morally prohibited to directly intend these emissions? That is the first question you need to consider.

    I already answered this. I do not view doing something that results in emissions necessarily immoral; so this is a bad example.

    The hypothetical is physically impossible. In that situation you simply do not have sufficient time to deliberate. If one wants a case where there is sufficient time to deliberate, then they will need to cook up a new hypothetical.

    Then your car example makes no sense, and cannot be answered. It presupposed that one knows that they either can swerve and kill two, or not swerve and kill four. You are now saying they lack the proper deliberation to know this; which contradicts your stipulations.

    As a remote intention they may be trying to land somewhere with no people, but practically speaking they may foresee the effect that at least some people will die. In that case they are trying to minimize death and injury.

    Yes, but it isn’t a certain foreseen effect; which matters. I was saying that one indirectly and per accidens intends killing the one when pulling the lever because they are certain of the foreseen effect of killing the one and still did it anyways to save the five. If you stipulate that there is a 10% chance of killing someone if one pulls the lever and one knows for certain that pulling the lever saves the five; then I would say it is morally obligatory to pull the lever.

    That's not what "ideal" means, and that's why your definition fails.

    I looked up the term, and that is fair. I was thinking of “idea” and not “ideal”. A intention is “an act of volition which aims at some idea (end)”.

    Edit: The contentious claim you are making is something like <There is no morally relevant difference between direct intention and indirect intention; between an end and a foreseen effect>.

    That is not my claim at all: I can accept that there is a morally relevant difference between a direct and indirect intention and between an end and a foreseen effect while also accepting that it not relevant to the moral fact that one should never intend to kill an innocent human being [against their will]. You find these distinctions to provide some morally relevant reason for making this kind of killing sometimes morally permissible (or omissible), but I don’t see it—but that’s not the same thing as me not seeing or agreeing about the fact that such distinctions are distinctions.
  • Herg
    244
    @RogueAI, @Bob Ross, @Leontiskos

    I apologise for not answering your posts. I haven't gone away, but the past week has been difficult. I shall try to reply to them in the next few days.

    (Apologies for not linking to you guys in this post, I don't know how to do that.)
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    No worries at all. PS: to mention people, you have to use the @ symbol followed by the person's username in double quotes (or use the @ button)(e.g., @'Bob Ross' but with double quotes ["] instead): otherwise, they don't get a notification.

    If done properly, when you preview your comment it should turn the @ blue.

    To link people, you can either use the @ (like explained above) or reply to a comment that they have made.
  • Ourora Aureis
    36
    I believe that there is no ethically relevent distinction between omission and commission. "ethically relevent", meaning that such a distinction should be a factor in ones decision making. I'd like to present two hypotheticals to present an intuitive case for my belief.

    Hypothetical 1

    You are walking along a path in the woods with a group of 6 strangers and reach a cliff face, when suddenly the cliff collapses and they all fall. Each person falls a seperate distance, requiring a different amount of time to climb down and rescue them. You determine that there is a limited amount of time before each individual will lose their grip and fall to certain death. After some thinking you determine a method to save 5 people, but you wont have enough time to get to the last.

    What should you do?

    Well, if you do not act then all 6 individuals would die, therefore saving the 5 does not cause anyones death. I'm sure most people who would not pull the lever, would save the 5 in this situation.

    Hypothetical 2

    Lets imagine a seperate scenario where the same events take place. However, this time there exists a 7th person who is behind you and is the partner of that 1 person. You know that if you do not act then the 1 will be saved by the man and less time will exist to save others, resulting in 2 people dying instead. You know that the cliff is too unstable for both you and the other man to save people at the same time.

    Assume for the sake of both hypotheticals that you and the 7th man are both pro rock climbers and are sure in your judgements of the situation. Im sure there are better ways of presenting this idea than I am doing so here, but the underlying moral dillema is equivalent.

    Argument

    This situation is now functionally equivalent to the trolley problem. Choosing to do nothing will cause 4 people to be saved, while acting will allow 5 people to be saved. If reduced down to remove the overlapping individuals then its killing 1 to save 2. However, the only difference is the existance of an individual who intends to act in such a way that it would cause more deaths. So lets make a similar situation with this new found knowledge.

    Assume you are a politician and you have the ability to make a decision that will improve the world, whatever that means to you. However, you have a rival who intends to improve the world in a different way you view as less impactful, resulting in more unnecessary deaths but saving lives you would have not saved. According to your ethical theory, you are morally obliged to allow this individual to gain power and make this choice.

    You are completely capable of just responding "yeah, so what?". The only argument I am making here is that this is the logical extension of your actions if you choose to act in the 1st scenario and not act in the 2nd.

    Potential Objection

    I assume a potentital rebuttel to this would be for people to say that we should still save the 5 since we aren't the cause of their death still, we just dont allow a scenario where they are saved to exist. This to me seems like another distinction is need of definition and explanation of moral revelence. If ones action can lead to someones death who would otherwise not have died, then how can that action not be considered a "cause"?

    Clarification of my thoughts and the extent of this idea

    I believe this to be a clear conclusion that the morality being expressed is self-defeating, as someone else need just come along and oppose it. If you do not act in the trolley problem, but you allow another to act in your stead, then your entire thought process is meaningless since its preferred result did not come into effect via your action. And if you did oppose someone then I would consider that act to be immoral as it would be causing more deaths than would happen without your input.

    To be clear, I dont care for the distinction of "cause" or "effect" myself, Im asking people to justify their own definition and the relevence of "causing death" between the trolley problem and this scenario. I believe actions lead to different experiences, the process and interaction between different agents or objects that leads to such is irrelevent. You cannot zone in on any "cause" and "effect" outside of the action and experiences themselves.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Lets say person A murders person B, is person C now responsible?

    It depends. If person A is a child and person B is an infant, and C could very easily have stopped the act? I don't think you can get a free pass on allowing some little kid to throw their baby sibling into a pool (with or without malice) just because you do not want to get "involved."
  • Tzeentch
    3.5k
    Hm. I would disagree.

    The uninvolved bystander isn't responsible for the well-being of other people, and that includes children.

    Of course, why on earth somebody who is interested in behaving morally would let a child drown is a fair question, but also irrelevant to the question of whether or not they are responsible.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    - Okay, I am going to start moving away from this thread now. We can try to tie up some of the loose ends as best as possible...


    Even under your characterization of the two, they are both intended effects. If you accept either Brock’s or Aquinas’ characterizations that you gave (above this comment), then it necessarily follows that a foreseen effect is intentional (albeit it of a meaningfully different “type” thereof).Bob Ross
    Again, all intended killings that are illegal are murder: that includes indirectly intended ones.Bob Ross
    How??? It is simple: one does something which results in the foreseen effect.Bob Ross

    In these sorts of claims you continue the strange move whereby you reduce indirect intention to mere intention, contrary to Le1. The reason I have spilled so much ink on indirect intention is because it is morally different from mere intention, so this reduction of yours is obviously counterproductive.

    There was nothing dubious with my statement (other than a syntax/grammar mistake): if one aims at an end by using a means, that means has two effects, one effect ….Bob Ross

    Again, I have already addressed your equivocation between a cause and a means in detail in <this post> and <the following post>. You never responded to those posts, and I'm not sure if you even read them.

    Wouldn’t you agree, that all effects relevant to an analysis of intention stem from a means utilized to aim at the direct intention.Bob Ross

    I would agree that all foreseeable effects of our intentional acts are morally relevant. One problem with your statement is that some effects relevant to an analysis of intention may stem from a non-means, such as an end.

    I already answered this. I do not view doing something that results in emissions necessarily immoral; so this is a bad example.Bob Ross

    You are avoiding the question and engaging in what I described here:

    If I were teaching philosophy I would not allow my students to examine the trolley problem until we had studied causality, intention, and responsibility in depth. A very bad way to do philosophy is to take extremely controversial cases and begin there. If someone begins with controversy then the foundations that inevitably get laid to account for the controversy are biased in favor of the emotional-controversial cases. This is a poor approach because controversial cases are by definition difficult to understand, and one should begin with what is easy to understand before slowly moving to what is more difficult. If the mind does not have the principles and the easier cases "under its belt" then it will have no chance of confronting the difficult and controversial cases. This is perhaps one of the most basic problems with modern philosophy, but I digress.

    But note that this is what is occurring in the thread. You have your conclusion, "Pulling the lever in the trolley case is impermissible," and you are trying to sort out all the foundations of causality, intention, and responsibility in order to account for that conclusion. This is placing all sorts of strange pressures on colloquial usage and the more obvious, uncontroversial cases. As far as I'm concerned, this approach is backwards, and that's why I don't really like the trolley problem. That's why I've been trying to get you to think about what intention is in itself, or how causal necessity differs from logical necessity, or how responsibility applies in simpler cases of car emissions.
    Leontiskos

    If you cannot bring yourself to analyze the way that something evil becomes acceptable when it is merely a foreseen effect, then you will not be able to assess cases like the trolley case, for you will have no principled way to distinguish an effect that can become acceptable from an effect that cannot become acceptable.

    Then your car example makes no sense, and cannot be answered.Bob Ross

    Right, hence my point.

    If you stipulate that there is a 10% chance of killing someone if one pulls the lever and one knows for certain that pulling the lever saves the five; then I would say it is morally obligatory to pull the lever.Bob Ross

    Okay, interesting. What if there is an 80% chance, say?

    I looked up the term, and that is fair. I was thinking of “idea” and not “ideal”. A intention is “an act of volition which aims at some idea (end)”.Bob Ross

    Okay, good, although above I gave similar critiques regarding 'idea'.

    That is not my claim at all: I can accept that there is a morally relevant difference between a direct and indirect intention and between an end and a foreseen effect while also accepting that it not relevant to the moral fact that one should never intend to kill an innocent human being [against their will]. You find these distinctions to provide some morally relevant reason for making this kind of killing sometimes morally permissible (or omissible), but I don’t see it—but that’s not the same thing as me not seeing or agreeing about the fact that such distinctions are distinctions.Bob Ross

    As I've said, you don't seem to acknowledge any morally relevant difference. To acknowledge this you would need to identify it and explain why and how it is potentially morally relevant. That is what you have taken pains to avoid doing. If someone cannot demonstrate that they understand the moral relevance of a distinction, then their claim that the distinction is not relevant in a certain case is not principled.

    This is incorrect because your "per accidens means" has nothing to do with the direct/indirect intention of Brock's. What you apparently mean by "per accidens intention" is any intention that is not identical with the "primary intention." Else you should clarify what you mean by a per accidens intention.Leontiskos

    The other issue I just realized, is that the direct vs. indirect distinction is not the same as the per se vs. per accidens intention I made. A direct intention points out the flow of the aim, from start to finish, in the particular practical application (and so, for example, a means utilized for the end is directly intended, but a side effect from that means is indirectly intended); whereas a per se intention points out the “final cause”, or “original intention” stripped of all accidental aims enveloped into it by the practical circumstances, which is being set out as the “original end”.

    ...

    These two distinctions are not the same at all; and our dispute really hinged on a conflation between the two.
    Bob Ross

    I'm glad you finally agreed with me on this point. Note though that I am not the one who was conflating the two.
  • Herg
    244
    Interaction is not a necessary condition for treating someone as an end.
    — Herg

    I would class the counterexamples you are presenting as examples of interaction. You are consciously interacting with someone. It makes no difference that they are not consciously interacting with you. In the cases you present you interact with someone in a conscious way who is interacting with you in a non-conscious way (by their demeanor, or their need of a charitable donation, etc.).

    The point here is that we can easily broaden the concept of "interaction" that you are presupposing, and even then the problem that I posed to you does not go away. You are still not interacting with the 235 million people in Pakistan even on this broader notion of interaction, and therefore you are failing to treat them as an end. I think interaction is the right word, but we could rephrase it as follows: "If you are not engaging in an activity (in the philosophical sense) towards someone, then you are not treating them as an end. Therefore in order to treat each person as an end we must be engaged in an activity towards each person."
    Leontiskos
    In the Groundwork, after he has introduced the 2nd formulation, Kant says this:
    "Fourthly, as regards meritorious duties to others, the natural end which all men seek is their own happiness. Now humanity could no doubt subsist if everybody contributed nothing to the happiness of others but at the same time refrained from deliberately impairing their happiness. This is, however, merely to agree negatively and not positively with humanity as an end in itself unless everyone endeavours also, so far as in him lies, to further the ends of others. For the ends of a subject who is an end to himself must, if this conception is to have its full effect in me, be also, as far as possible, my ends."

    Kant is clearly saying here that one can only be fully an end to oneself by positively adopting the natural ends of others (namely their happiness) as one's own ends. This is one of four passages meant to illustrate the 2nd formulation, so it seems to follow that he intended the 2nd formulation to be read as requiring positive efforts in that direction.

    Treating someone as an end, in Kant's view, therefore means positively seeking to further the ends of others; there is no mention of interaction, or any similar condition that might place a limit on one's responsibility to further those ends. I think the idea that such a condition is required stems from mistakenly reading the 2nd formulation as a purely negative injunction; but I think the above passage shows that Kant intended it to be read as a positive injunction as well. If he did, then the notion of interaction is superfluous, and the 2nd formulation simply enjoins us to treat everyone (including the 235 millions in Pakistan) as ends at all times, and as part of that (but not the whole of it) to refrain from treating anyone merely as a means.

    I think that, whatever we think Kant meant, he could have put the 2nd formulation itself better: it is rather terse, and the exact nature of the relation between treating someone as an end and not treating them as a mere means is not made clear. But as I've explained, I think the ensuing text resolves the matter.

    I think we should also consider the fact that Kant was a Christian, and would have had in mind Christ's injunction to love our neighbour as ourselves. Kant's exhortation to adopt the natural ends of others as our own end is saying much the same thing. If the 2nd formulation requires there to be interaction before we are able to treat someone as an end, then a millionaire who never watches the news or reads the papers, lest he find out that there are people who are starving or in dire need who could benefit from his money, would pass the test of the 2nd formulation; but he would not be loving his neighbour as himself, nor would he pass Kant's test of adopting the starving person's natural ends as his own.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    - This is a good post, and I think you make some good points, but I think it is stretching these points too far to say that everyone must always be treated as an end. The reason, for example, that the Hebrew law says to love one's neighbor rather than to love everyone is because of the interaction that I am pointing to. Our neighbor is the one we interact with, and therefore the one we must love. Surely we need not love those who we do not interact with (and yet this does not mean that the millionaire you cite is not being negligent, for negligence is an inverted form of interaction).

    So let's streamline my argument. Let's pick one of those 235 million people in Pakistan who we have never met or interacted with. Call him "Ahmad." You are telling me that we must treat Ahmad as an end. 1) Are we treating Ahmad as an end? 2) Should we be treating Ahmad as an end? 3) How does one treat someone as an end?

    Now it seems to me that you and I are neither treating Ahmad as an end nor as a means, because we have no interaction with Ahmad. If I am not interacting with someone then I am not treating them (in any way whatsoever).
  • Herg
    244
    Surely we need not love those who we do not interact withLeontiskos
    This is the heart of the question, I think. One problem I have with your reading is that it divides humanity into two groups — those we interact with, who we are required to love, and those who we do not interact with, who we are not required to love. We see all too often what that division leads to: at best, neglect; at worst, racism, sectarianism, oppression, enslavement, war.

    Another problem I have with your reading is that it puts the cart before the horse. Surely the idea is to love first, and seek to interact because of that love? Or, in Kantian terms, to think of all humans as ends, to think of their happiness as if it were our happiness, and then seek to interact with them so as to promote that happiness?

    How do I treat Ahmad as an end? By thinking of all humans as ends, so that if Ahmad crosses my path and I see that he needs help, I am ready to help him.

    Consider Putin. Prior to his invasion of Ukraine, he didn't interact with most Ukrainians. So according to your reading, he wasn't required to treat them as ends. But isn't what was wrong with his invasion precisely the fact that he didn't treat the people of Ukraine as ends?
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    - The problem is that you are again unduly limiting the scope of interaction. From earlier:

    Now it seems to me that you and I are neither treating Ahmad as an end nor as a means, because we have no interaction with Ahmad. If I am not interacting with someone then I am not treating them (in any way whatsoever).Leontiskos
    Now it seems to me that you and I are neither treating Ahmad as an end nor as a means, because we have no interaction with Ahmad. If I am not interacting with someone then I am not treating them (in any way whatsoever).Leontiskos
    I think interaction is the right word, but we could rephrase it as follows: "If you are not engaging in an activity (in the philosophical sense) towards someone, then you are not treating them as an end. Therefore in order to treat each person as an end we must be engaged in an activity towards each person."Leontiskos

    So let's go with this more philosophically precise notion of activity towards, call it "acting-towards."

    1. Treating someone as an end is a form of acting-towards them
    2. We are not acting-towards Ahmad in any way whatsoever
    3. Therefore, we are not treating Ahmad as an end

    How do I treat Ahmad as an end? By thinking of all humans as ends, so that if Ahmad crosses my path and I see that he needs help, I am ready to help him.Herg

    Okay, but I could not in good faith say that I am treating Ahmad as an end on this definition. On your definition I don't even need to know if someone exists in order to treat them as an end and love them. I would say that in order to treat someone as an end I must at the very least know that they exist (under one description or another). The same would go for loving. I do not love someone if I do not know they exist.

    Consider Putin. Prior to his invasion of Ukraine, he didn't interact with most Ukrainians. So according to your reading, he wasn't required to treat them as ends. But isn't what was wrong with his invasion precisely the fact that he didn't treat the people of Ukraine as ends?Herg

    The first problem is to say that Putin did not interact with Ukraine prior to his invasion. He surely did, and he undeniably acted-towards Ukraine.

    But suppose a bully like Putin does not interact with or act-towards a person, Jake, in any way. Even if this is true, as soon as the bullying begins (and in fact before it begins) they are already interacting with the person. Bullying is a form of interaction and a form of acting-towards, and therefore one cannot bully without interacting. The brunt of Putin's transgression against the Ukrainians began after his invasion, not before.

    Ahmad lives on the other side of the world. I am not required to positively treat him in any way whatsoever, including treating him as an end. In fact I do not treat him in any way whatsoever. I am not acting-towards him in any way. If things changed (and he, say, 'crossed my path') then perhaps I would be required to act-towards him in some way, but given the way things currently are I have no such obligation. I do not believe it would be true for me to claim that I am loving Ahmad and treating Ahmad as an end. I think those acts require more than universal good will.

    Edit: Forgot this part:

    Another problem I have with your reading is that it puts the cart before the horse. Surely the idea is to love first, and seek to interact because of that love? Or, in Kantian terms, to think of all humans as ends, to think of their happiness as if it were our happiness, and then seek to interact with them so as to promote that happiness?Herg

    No, I do not think we love what we do not know exists. Knowledge is one of the most basic forms of acting-towards, for it involves an act of knowledge where the object of that act is the person in question. We must first encounter someone before we can love them.
  • Herg
    244
    Now you are not a consequentialist, but the objection usually comes from consequentialists. They will say, "You care about your principle, but I care about human life!" Well, no. The deontologist cares about human life via deontological principles, and the consequentialist cares about human life via consequentialist principles. There is no one who bypasses principles altogether and just cares about human life in a way that overrides all principles and all rational analysis.Leontiskos
    At the moment I don't know if I'm a consequentialist or not. Some sort of weird Kantian-Benthamite deonto-consequentialist hybrid, I think. A philosophical chimera, perhaps.

    Be that as it may, I must pick you up on your claim that "the deontologist cares about human life via deontological principles." If the driver follows Bob's deontological principle and does not turn the wheel, all four people in the road end up dead. How is this consistent with your claim that "the deontologist cares about human life"?

    Added later: I'm sorry, this post is not up to standard. I am finding it impossible to find the time to participate properly in these discussions, so I am leaving the thread. Thanks to all who have talked to me, and in particular yourself and @Bob Ross.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Be that as it may, I must pick you up on your claim that "the deontologist cares about human life via deontological principles." If the driver follows Bob's deontological principle and does not turn the wheel, all four people in the road end up dead. How is this consistent with your claim that "the deontologist cares about human life"?Herg

    I think the answer would have something to do with Plato's insistence that it is better to suffer injustice than to do injustice, and that the man who chooses injustice is impoverished in a way that suffering could never achieve.

    But you're right that if we consider the consequentialist goal of preserving the maximum number of human lives, then the deontologist's principle does not achieve this goal. Still, the consequentialist's principles are ordered to their end/goal, and the deontologist's principles are ordered to their end/goal. For each side there are principles in play, and there are intuitively difficult counterexamples for both of them.

    I'm sorry, this post is not up to standard. I am finding it impossible to find the time to participate properly in these discussions, so I am leaving the thread. Thanks to all who have talked to me, and in particular yourself and Bob Ross.Herg

    No worries. I am thinking along the same lines. Take care.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Okay, I am going to start moving away from this thread now. We can try to tie up some of the loose ends as best as possible...

    No problem. I will do my best to summarize from my end.

    Our real dispute has finally been elevated to the surface, in complete clarity. I find it both immoral to per se and per accidens as well as to directly and indirect intend something bad, but the formers of each are more immoral than the latters; whereas you think that some of the latters are morally permissible, and I still have not heard any real justification for why: providing an elaboration of what the distinctions are is not a justification of why any of them are or are not immoral.

    If you cannot bring yourself to analyze the way that something evil becomes acceptable when it is merely a foreseen effect, then you will not be able to assess cases like the trolley case, for you will have no principled way to distinguish an effect that can become acceptable from an effect that cannot become acceptable.

    I’ve already elaborated on why it makes no difference to me and what principles I am using, but for a substantial response here is my post to Herg that outlines it in even more detail.

    You have provided no justification, e.g., for why some indirectly intended effects or actions are morally permissible other than laying out the “landscape”—which is not justification for it.

    In these sorts of claims you continue the strange move whereby you reduce indirect intention to mere intention, contrary to Le1

    Both are intentions: they inherent from the concept of intentionality. What you are doing is complaining when I say “all Xs are immoral” where “all Ys are Xs, but not all Xs are Ys”. All intentions are either indirect or direct, and I already elaborated on why they are both immoral in the case of intentionally killing an innocent human being—to say that is not a conflation, it includes both subtypes of intention in it.

    Again, I have already addressed your equivocation between a cause and a means in detail in <this post> and <the following post>. You never responded to those posts, and I'm not sure if you even read them

    If I didn’t, then I apologize: I must have missed them.

    And what could this sentence of yours possibly mean? Give one example of a potential means, if you think your distinction is coherent.

    A potential means to getting to the grocery store is my rusty, old go-cart, because I lack sufficient knowledge to say it is a means towards that end. That’s standardly what a ‘potential’ is: it isn’t actual.

    Your use of the term ‘potential means’ is semantically weird: you are implying that you know that the means is a means towards the end, but since it wasn’t chosen and used it isn’t a means. Saying it is an ‘actual means’ is a double positive, and saying something is potentially X means it may not be X in all probability.

    This is incorrect because your "per accidens means" has nothing to do with the direct/indirect intention of Brock's. What you apparently mean by "per accidens intention" is any intention that is not identical with the "primary intention." Else you should clarify what you mean by a per accidens intention.

    I was finishing reading the eudemian ethics the other day, and came across the exact distinction I happen to be making in Aristotle’s Book VI p. 103:

    If someone chooses or pursues A for the sake of B, then per se he pursues and chooses B, and A only coincidentally. But when we speak without qualification, we mean what is per se

    This is not the same thing as your indirect vs. direct intentionality distinction. What is per se intended is what is chosen and pursued non-coincidentally (viz., as the real end). You are completely overlooking this distinction; but it doesn’t make much a difference with respect to the crux of our dispute. I would just add that per se intending to kill someone is worse than per accidens intending to kill someone; and they are both immoral in the case of an innocent person.

    This goes back to the problem about the distinction between natural necessity and logical necessity. If a tyrant says, "I will rape this woman if you drive to the grocery store," then is it permissible for me to drive to the grocery store? Of course it is.

    That’s different than my example I gave: I was saying that using the car as a means would result in a side effect of a woman getting raped; whereas your refurbished example makes the rape completely unrelated to any means used to achieve the end.

    In the trolley case the death of the one falls under (indirect) intention not because pulling the lever is a means to their death. I repeat, it is not indirectly intentional because pulling the lever is a means. The reason their death is indirectly intentional is because it is an effect of the cause of pulling the lever, and that cause is intended.

    Right, it is indirectly intended because one uses the means and that means causes the effect which is not an effect aimed at (directly). I never suggested otherwise.

    There is no reason at all that we should be talking about the word "means" when it comes to the relation between the lever and the death. Again, a cause is not the same thing as a means.

    The means causes the effect we are discussing; and because the means was utilized by a person intentionally, it will be relevant to our discussion about whether or not the effect is intentional.

    Okay, interesting. What if there is an 80% chance, say?

    For me, it has to be a certainty; otherwise we are not discussing the same dispute. So I would say, under what I have been outlining, it would not be necessarily wrong to pull the lever in that case; but because my principle doesn’t apply here: I was talking about a certainty.

    In the case of “statistical certainties”, which may include this 80% chance you speak of, I would say that it is morally permissible (and maybe even obligatory) if the intended good end is consequentially better than the bad end which has an 80% chance of occurring. I resort to consequentialism here, because I see no other route to take.

    So:

    1. If I am certain that the pollution emissions from my car is going to kill a person (like in the case that I start my car in a closed garage with a child in it), then it would be immoral for me to start the car.

    2. If I am certain that I have a 0.5% chance of killing someone accidentally by simply driving on the streets, as a mere statistical fact, then I am permitted to go to the grocery store because (1) if I were to kill someone in this manner it would be indirectly intended and (2) the good effect (end) greatly outweighs the potential bad effect.

    3. If I am certain that I have a 99% chance of killing someone accidentally by simply driving on the streets, as a mere statistical fact (or perhaps I am drunk), then I am NOT permitted to go the the grocery store because (1) if I were to kill someone in this manner it would be indirectly intended and (2) the bad effect greatly outweighs the good effect (end).

    The problem is that I think this is what you are trying to advocate for, but the examples you give stipulate certainty simpliciter and not high probabilities, which is a paramount distinction under my view. The airplane crash was stipulated as certain of each outcome happening for example.

    If I were teaching philosophy I would not allow my students to examine the trolley problem until we had studied causality, intention, and responsibility in depth.

    Fair enough, and hopefully we are doing that now (;
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I think I see the confusion now. My principle is really:

    it is always immoral to intentionally kill an innocent human being [against their will] if it is a certainty that they will be killed

    This principle does not hinge on the direct vs. indirect distinction. To your point, I don't think that it is always wrong to indirectly intend to kill innocent people in the event that what is indirectly intended is not certain. Is that what you are getting at?
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    No worries, Herg! We all get busy. We can chat anytime. :victory:
  • Leontiskos
    2k


    Okay, I will let yours be the last word. Thanks for the interesting conversation.

    But let me elaborate on this:

    I was finishing reading the eudemian ethics the other day, and came across the exact distinction I happen to be making in Aristotle’s Book VI p. 103:

    "If someone chooses or pursues A for the sake of B, then per se he pursues and chooses B, and A only coincidentally. But when we speak without qualification, we mean what is per se"
    Bob Ross

    Here is Simpson's rendering:

    Or is it accidental that it is any reason and choice whatever and in itself it is true reason and right choice that the one stands by and the other does not? For if someone chooses or pursues this thing because of that thing, in itself he pursues and chooses the latter but accidentally the former. But we say that the “in itself” is simply so, hence in a sense it is any opinion that the one stands by and the other forsakes but simply speaking it is the true one.[2]

    2. The point is that any opinion that one follows one follows thinking it true even if in fact it is false. Hence “in itself” one follows what is true but accidentally any opinion.
    — Peter L. P. Simpson, The Eudemian Ethics of Aristotle, VI.9 (1151a33)

    Aristotle is here considering the different reasons why one may assent to a proposition or course of action. As I said above, for Aristotle the per se/per accidens distinction is nuanced, and is more than a merely logical distinction. So in this case Aristotle is saying that assent is per se concerned with truth, and therefore someone who assents to something because it is true assents to it per se, whereas someone who only assents to it because he is stubborn and wishes to maintain his opinions assents to it per accidens (cf. 1151b4). Both the end and the nature of the assent as characterized by that end are what is per se or per accidens. Everyone who assents to something is at the same time affirming its truth, but not all are motivated by a desire for truth qua truth. Some affirm its truth for a lesser reason, and in that case the interest in truth is secondary. Of course there is also the analogy between belief and action operating here, for the subject is continence and incontinence.
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